Tuesday, 3 March 2009

The Cheap-Arse Film Review #22- "THE SOCIAL CLIMBER." (RIP WOOLWORTHS PT. 2)









PRICE: £1.00

(Late again. Three days so, just as before. Been ill, but really that's no excuse. I throw myself at your feet and beg you for forgivness, whilst also promising, promising, that next week's review will be up on Wednesday. I know I said that before. Yes... yes I know my word doesn't mean what it once did, but please baby, just give me one last chance. I can change. Please don't give up on me. Remember Rome.)

I'm not going to do a big introduction this week. I had one planned. I was going to talk about Jennifer Love Hewitt, and the fickle nature of making the transition from TV to film, and how it works perfectly well one way, but there's still a stigma attached to the other. I was going to talk about how she probably could have made it if she'd just stuck to horror movies, but like so many of her generation she wanted to prove she had range and, sadly, she failed. I was going to mention the fact that she's probably better off on television, and that as research I watched an episode of her new (well, new to me) show, "The Ghost Whisperer," and thought it was... alright. It's not "Buffy," but if you ask me, neither was "Buffy" towards the end. And, yes, I was going to make a few jokes about her breasts. I was even going to call her, "Jennifer Lovely Jubblies" at one point, which I was far too proud of myself for having come up with.

I was going to go into all that, in my trademark manner (meaning it was going to be fucking long). But I've decided not to now.


I'm going to be totally honest with you folks- I hated this movie. With a seething passion. And I don't want to spend any longer writing this than I absolutely have to. Which, if we're going by my logic, probably means this will end up the longest review I've ever done.

It's not even so much the actual movie really, but rather one character in it. Sadly that character happens to be the main one, Katya Livingston, played by the lovely Ms. Hewitt. In many ways, I think she's comparable to Patrick Bateman from "American Psycho," which I suppose is apt due to the fact this is an adaptation of a book called "Confessions of a Sociopathic Social Climber." The only difference is that, within the world he inhabited, Patrick was normal enough to go along undetected, whereas this woman is just... you would believe she was capable of murder. Infact, she does kill thing! I mean, she...

... actually I'm going to handle this within the context of the review, because this is coming dangerously close to an introduction.

We open at a wedding as the group picture is about to be taken. The bride, Dove Greenstein (Stefanie von Pfetten, who looks a bit like an older version of the twins from "Sweet Valley High"), is wondering where her husband is, as of course he's supposed to be in it. We then cut to Katya, talking on her phone whilst talking to her accountant in prison about his fears that she's about to be audited (which allows them to use her keeping an expenses journal as the voiceover framing device, and also allows them go for that old classic visual gag of seeing the accountant being lovingly caressed by a big bald man with a beard in the only other scene we see him in, because remember kids, prison rape is funny), whilst occasionally giving off little moans. Dove, the other guests and the photogaphers all burst in, and it's revealed that there's a man up Katya's dress, and yep, you guessed it, he's the groom. So a pretty socialite was talking on the phone in a disnterested manner whilst recieving oral sex. Gee, I wonder where they got that one from? Surprisingly, the movie goes out of its way here to try and make this horrible thing she's done seem less awful by having her explain that she missed the ceromony and thought she was copping off with the Best Man. And I say surprising because, as you will soon see, she does alot of other really horrible things throughout this movie, and no excuse is given for them other than the fact that she's just a horrible person.

After the credit sequence (JLH dancing around to some music and getting dressed, which is enough to make it one of the best things in this movie), we move forward in time a little bit to see Katya walking to work, getting accousted by a man in a rabbit suit she says she has a restraining order against (Frank, how far you've fallen...), and buying a cheap knock-off of some expensive bag that a dude is just selling on the side of the street (isn't that supposed to be illegal?), who she's also a jerk to by way of bartering him down to way below the price he was asking on the basis of, "every socialite in San Francisco is going to see me with that bag," like the guy selling illegal forgeries really wants to draw that much attention to himself. "Honestly," she continues," you should be paying me." Oh fuck off. She finally arrives at work, where we're told she the star creative player of an advertising firm, and we meet her co-workers- Eliza (Sonja Bennett), a cute strawbery-blonde hippy who wants Katya to sponsor a little African boy; her bosses secretary, known only as Gatekeeper (Jennifer Clement), who I think we're supposed to think is strange and a bit of a bitch, although she's outdone in that regard by Katya within seconds when she in not-so-many words tells her that her clothes look ugly and cheap; Sebastian (James Kirk)(yes, really), a young, seemingly sweet-natured guy who's been brought in to act as her second in command, only for her to treat him like a personal assistant and constantly makes fun of his age despite not looking all that much older than him (amazing but true- Jennifer Love Hewitt turned 30 last month); and finally her boss, Alex (Daniel Roebuck), who seemingly has no authority over Katya whatsoever and sits back as she kills his pets (accidently, it's fair to add, as she feeds them the healthy snacks Eliza keeps giving her, but the fact remains that by the end of the film she's responsible for the deaths of several fish and an Iguana, and she barely seems to care. She even tells the lizard he'd make a nice pair of shoes).

We've seemingly jumped forward in time again to see Eliza and Katya enjoying a little liquid lunch, where amongst other things Katya finds the time to moan that none of the men she date appreciate he "Inner Goddess," (oh fuck off) that's going to sponsor the little boy in Africa (even though she keeps sayin she's adopting him, which means either the character or the writers themselves don't now the difference between these two things), although she neglects to mention she's only doing it to get on the good side of the IRS, and since the scene wouldn't be complete without her making someone feel bad, she proclaims Eliza's headscarf to be a little too, "Aunt Jamima." I'm sort of with her on that one, if I'm honest. Back at the office, following her completely immasculating Sebastian again just because he dared ask to be allowed to do the job he was hired for, Katya goes on a break once again (at first I thought this must be a different day, but nope, she's wearing the same clothes as in the previous scene), and clasps eyes on a ruggedly handsome man she christens Thor, but it's eventually discovered is called Charles (Colin Ferguson, who my fellow sci-fi nerds my recognise as Sherrif Jack Carter from "Eureka"). She starts drooling all over herself like a dog left in a hot car, imagines him walking straight over to her, and he's about to kiss her when... Sebastian suddenly appears in front of her hold a box of Tampax she asked him to buy, except it's a huge box of maxi-sized ones. HA! Okay, it's a stupid joke, but I enjoyed it. I also got a kick out of seeing Katya embarrassed in front of someone she likes. Yes, I hate this character so much I derive pleasure from her failures, which is the polar opposite of how you're supposed to feel about a main character.

Katya is now back at her appartment after a long day standing around sucking on unlit cigarettes, watching an E! Television-style show presented by Melissa Rivers (and it shold tell you something about the target audience for this movie that she's the big celebrity cameo) talking about a big party being thrown by Dove that you need key-shaped invitations to be able to attend, proclaiming it bigger than Oprah's 50th (side note- this movie was first broadcast on the Oxygen! Channel in America, a chanel that Oprah pretty much owns) and Puffy's White Party (and I'm ashamed to admit I know what that is...). When Katya hears she's not invited, she's appalled (yes, that's right, she expects an invitation to a party being thrown by a woman who caught her husband of an hour tops GOING DOWN ON HER), and calls her best friends Frangipani (who I'm just going to call Fran from now on) and Ferguson so they can take her out. Now, the guy playing Ferguson looks really familiar to me, but for the life of me, I can't place him. As much as I've tried to forget this movie, and will attempt to wipe it from my mind once I'm through with this second viewing, I've actually been trying hard to figure out who he is. I fucking hate this, when you're watching something and you know you know the person on-screen from somewhere else, but you just caOH MY GOD IT'S JOEY LAWRENCE FROM "BLOSSOM!" IT HAS LITERALLY JUST COME TO ME! I SWEAR, I DIDN'T LOOK IT UP ON THE INTERNET OR ANYTHING! I WAS JUST WATCHING THIS SCENE, AND I JUST YELLED "WOAH!" AT MY TELEVISION! JOEY LAWRENCE IS IN THIS, AND HE'S PLAYING A BALD HOMOSEXUAL PROSTITUTE WHO FALLS IN LOVE WITH HIS CLIENTS AND THEN TRIES TO KILL HIMSELF WHEN THEY SPURN HIS ADVANCES! Well, this movie just got a little more awesome.

I can't believe I've referenced both "Blossom" and "Sweet Valley High" in the same review. I am a man, I just... want to put that out there.

As well as existing to give us some exposition we already know, this scene also kicks off a little sub-plot where one of the waiters gives Katya a book he's written to read so she'll give him her opinion on it before he enters it into some contest where the winner gets $25,000. Of course, she just throws it away, telling him she's already entered it for him when infact she's entered something she's written, and over the course of bumping into him at several different locations where he's now working, she feeds him an endless stram of bullshit whilst also bribing him for free drinks. Oh, and she ends up winning the contest, so the lesson there is if you screw over people who trust you, you'll go far in life (the sad thing is that, for all my snark, history has proven that there's an element of truth to that last statement). Her friends then half-heartedly try to make Katya feel better, only for Fran to produce an invite out of her bag for little more reason than to rub the fact that she's going in her face. Up until now, this movie was suffering from the same problem most like this do, which is the morally-questionable main character is surrounded by friends that are miles too nice to want to hang out with her, so it was good to see at least one of her friend be the kind of person you'd expect her to be friends with.

Following this, we find ourselves back at Katya's apartment as she wanders sleepily around listening to her voicemail messages. She's wearing pajamas, specifically what looks to be a pink version on the pajamas worm by Calista Flockhart on "Aly McBeal" (I swear to you, I really do have a penis. I've got people who can vouch for me and everything). I have a thing for women in pajamas. Just thought I'd throw that out there. Just as she's about to casually fall asleep at her work desk (why doesn't she just, I dunno, go to bed?), she suddenly remembers she's supposed to have come up with a campaign for a shoe soles company to present the next day, and works through the night to come up with something. I get the feeling this little sequence is supposed to show us that regardless of her personality, she's good at her job. The only problem is, the idea she comes up with seems a bit, well... shit. It consists of her making an Angel costume for herself and proclaiming the product as, "Heaven for your feet." It looks and sounds like something a child would come up with if they were asked to make an ad for a school project. And we're expected to believe she's the best there is at what she does. But the clients like it and she's proclaimed a genius and some kind of hero. Fortunately for me, her high doesn't last long, as she discovers Alex also has an invite to the ball. She moans to Eliza about the situation, and like the stereotypical happy-clappy hippy she is, Eliza suggests she work the party like she. "EW!" Katya exclaims, "Working the event is worse than not attending at all." Oh fuck off. And as she storms off, Eliza just smiles at her and shakes her head, as if to say, "Oh, you!" WHY ARE YOU FRIENDS WITH THIS WOMAN?! SHE TREATS YOU LIKE SHIT! And then she goes back to her office and yells at Sebastian for doing what his boss has asked him to! Yes, how dare he go to work to actually work! Dear God I'm fucking losing it with this movie.

Anyway, she leaves work without permission again, but at least this time she has a halfway decent reason to, that being Ferguson has had his heart broken by another client and is threatening to kill himself again. She finds him with his head in his oven, which she quickly points out won't work because it's electric. She wouldn't be Katya if she didn't have an alterior motive for being there though, as she needs him to play the role of, to quote Ferguson himself, "her gay assistant," and call Dove's people to see why she's not got her invite yet. Oh my God, she still thinks she should be invited! This woman operates on a different level of reality to every other person that's ever lived. Even within the context of her own movie! She's really the only person who doesn't get why she's not invited! Dove finally gets on the phone, and following some catty back-and-forth, tells Katya to fuck off. Right, that should be the end of that, shouldn't it? Movie over? Please? Oh, who am I kidding, there's over an hour to go. Hewitt is wearing nice shoes in this scene, I'll give her that (wow, I'll say one thing about this movie, it's just laying all my fetishes out on the table, isn't it?). The scene ends with her putting her own head in the oven. HAHAHAH! IT'S FUNNY BECAUSE SHE KNOWS IT'S ELECTRIC!

Only an hour to go...

Following this, the movie breaks off into two main plots which eventually converge, and one sub-plot. The sub-plot can be summed up very quickly- Sebastian suddenly stops being a good-goody boy scout and literally turns into a Dark Lord of the Sith- he's wearing black clothes, his hair's all slicked back, and he's now constantly has an evil smile on his face and isn't afraid to tell Katya to get stuffed. While I'll admit I got a kick out of seeing him telling her off, the fact that this transformation comes out of nowhere is just bad storytelling.
The closest we get to an explaination is him now claiming this is the "real Sebastian." Um, okay, whatever you say, just place don't crush my throat with your mind. It's an example of a lazy script that has no interest in explaining anything, it just has things happen because we're at the point in the story (and I use that word in its loosest possible sense) where it should. This also fails because I think we're now supposed to think of him as a bad guy, and if you haven't figured out why that doesn't work and you're this far into this, I really don't know what to tell you.

The first of the two main plots involve Katya scrambling desperately to get an invitation to the party, as it becomes obvious that everybody she knows is going to this thing except here (this becomes frankly ludicrous when it's revealed later that Ferguson has an invite. I can buy Alex and Fran getting invites, but the emotionally screwed-up rent boy?). Her first plan is to take advanage of Bobby, her ex-boyfriend who we last saw at the beginning of the movie dressed like a giant rabbit, because the last time she checked he was Dove's drug dealer. She walks up to who she thinks is Bobby in the suit in the street, asks him if he wants to "hump like bunnies," and when he nods in the affirmative, waves a giant carrot in his face. How many rabbit-based jokes are they going to squeeze out of this? Well, one more it would seem, as the next scene taes place in Katya's apartment, where Bobby's grinding up against she from behind as she's wearing a Playboy Bunny Girl outfit. But guess what? IT'S NOT BOBBY! It's a new guy in the suit that presumably came straight from work still wearing his costume and just started rubbing against her without so much as a word being exchanged between them. Makes perfect sense. Anyway, Katya manages to get in contact with the real Bobby, and dear God is this guy a mess, a nervous fawn of a man who is reluctant to hook up with Katya because his shrink say she's bad for his "mental wellbeing." She proves too tempting to resist though, and after a sex scene that's pathetic even by TV movie standards (NOBODY IS MOVING!), Bobby drops the bombshell that he's recently come out of rehab, cleaned up his life and doesn't deal anymore, meaning he's not invited to the party. Having slept with this guy for no other reason than to get an invite (and this has dawned on me- if these invites are "plus one," why doesn't she just go with one of her friends?), Katya is undersandably disappointed at hearing this news. So disappointed, infact, that she has the police drag Bobby yelling and screaming out of her apartment, siting the restraining order she mentioned earlier. Poor Bobby.

Her second plan is good, old-fashioned blackmail, as she hears that Dove is something of a sasquatch (as a man with hairy shoulders, she has my complete sympathy), and schemes to get a picture of her getting waxed that she'll release to the gossip press if she doesn't get an invite. After both she and Ferguson both fail to use their charms on the male receptionist, she slips the guy a bill, and like that, they're both in. Also the receptionist, who'd previously informed Ferguson, "you're not my type either," now seems to want him. What a ho. After some more scheming, Katya gets upstares and gets a picture of Dove on the waxing table. They're about to do a trade-off, picture for invitation (which Dove just conveniently has in her bag), before Dove changes her mind, saying that the picture is useless for blackmail because her face isn't in it. AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! AWESOME! WHAT A FUCKINGING MORON! AND THEN KATYA'S DRAGGED OUT BY SECURITY! AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!

Which I guess brings us to the second main plot, that being Katya's infatuation with Charles, and the complications that arise from that. Throughout the film, Eliza tries to hook Katya up with a lawyer friend of hers, only to have Katya constantly blowing her off because she just assumes he'll be horrendous. Eliza even goes so far as to give him her number, which he uses to leave an answering machine message, her mocking him the entire tim he's talking. However, we then cut to the other side of the call, and see that the lawyer Eliza's trying to hook her up with is infact... CHARLES! So Katya's judgemental attitude is fucking her in the arse and preventing her from meeting up with guy she's decided on-sight is the man of her dreams. Her attitude changes pretty quickly however when she's informed by Eliza that he has an invite to the party, leading to her returning his call and agreeing to go on a date with him. So, I suppose you think you've got what happens next figured out, haven't you? She'll meet him, realise he's the guy she's in love with, they'll get on great, he'll find out she was only after him for his invite, and so on and so on. Well, strap yourself in folks, because amazingly I'm going to offer this movie some minor praise, because it takes a twist that actually quite creative- the pair meet up in an elevator after having bumped into each other a couple of times during the movie, usually with Katya accidentally humiliating herself. Charles stops the elevator again and says he'll only start it again if she agrees to go out on a date with him (it's far less creepy then it reads here, trust me). She agrees, and the spend the evening together. Katya is at first put out when he takes her to the park to have a Hotdog, saying she thought he was a five-star restaurant kind of guy. I should be calling her an ungrateful bitch here but I actually don't mind this, because it's been established that this is how her character would initially react, and presenting her any other way would be dishonest. Still, he wins her over as the sit on a nearby fountain, talking about their live and such. Colin Ferguson gives one of the best performances in this movie, which I'll admit is the faintest of faint praise, but it bares pointing out. It's already been established that he's a good looking guy (I find it quite apt that he was originally referred to as Thor, because he's handsome in a manly enough way that I think Marvel could make much worse choices to play The God of Thunder himself), and he's just got this really honest natural likability to him. He's in the wrong movie, basically. So things go so good, they end up dancing in the fountain in their underwear (I did this once)(only I was alone)(and I was drunk)(and it wasn't a pond, it was a kiddies paddling pool), and after he walks her back to her apartment, Charles asks if they can do all this again next week. Katya says yes, but also says first she has to break off a date with some guy she only agreed to see in order to get into some party, that guy of course being Charles and... oh God now he's unhappy to hear this! It's that movie logic again! Dude, you've won! She likes you and wants to se you for you now! What, do you think she just magically fel in love with your voice when you left that message? At best she was going out with you because Eliza was bugging her to! That's how blind dates work! Christ I can't believe I'm defending this woman, but you're annoying me almost as much as she does right now!

Actually that's a lie.

Katya returns to her apartment riding a wave of happiness, unaware that she's accidentally crushed the man of her dreams until she plays the messages on her phone. See, during the date, Charles left a message on her phone, telling her he's the same guy she's supposed to go out on a date with next week (incidently I found it strange that she didn't recognise him from voice alone, as I think it's fair to say that his tone is fairly distinctive). Realising that she's pissed him off, she slams her fist on the table, hurts herself, and exclaimed, "I DESERVED THAT!" I can't believe I'm about to say this, but no, I don't think you did. We now enter the "downer" section of the movie where everything starts to go wrong for her- Charles won't speak to her because he thinks she's more interested in the invite than him (and I will say she doesn't help herself in this regard when he waves the invite in front of her and she goes to snatch it), everyone's going to this thing except her, and what's more she completely forgets to come up with a campaign idea for the Rice-Roni people. She attempts to quickly throw something together using a globe and a really cheesy catchphrase ("RICE-RONI: AMERICA'S FAVOURITE TREAT!") that no company in the 21st century would take in any way seriously. And thankfully the film realises this, having the company execs virtually laugh her out of the room. Enter Darth Sebastian with an idea of his own. To be honest, his idea's only slightly better than hers, but it's still better, so they decide to go with it. Cue Katya getting chewed out by alex about her poor performance and attitude (and I love how he grows a pair and starts calling on all the shit he was letting her get away with when she was of some use to him), before firing her, just like that.

The movie's sort of going in fast forward at this point, as Katya is now lazing around her apartment in the dress she bought for the party (bought with the money she won from the book contest, I might point out), before her friends show up and decide that Ciderella will go to the ball. Getting her in is a mini adverture in itself, as it involves a boat and having to climb a wall, but they succeed. And after a brief meeting with Eliza, her new boyfriend, and Bobby (who's decided he's now gay and in love with Ferguson)(is this another prison sex joke?), she's discovered by Dove, and the pair have a public slanging match based totally around the pair of them point out how awful they are. And that's a very good point, actually- we're about ten minutes away from the end, and Katya hasn't grown as a person even marginally. Normally when the main character in a movie has to learn something, the seeds start to be sown at least by the middle of the second act. Here she's exactly the same person she was at the start of the movie. She hasn't changed or shown any desire to change at all. She's not even at the party to try and apologise to Charles, she's just there because she wants to be there! So I kept wondering when and how they were suddenly going to make her a "good" person, because you know it's coming.

And sadly, the writers handle this the same way they handled Sebastian going over to The Dark Side, which is to have it come out of nowhere after a video of the boy in Africa she's "adopted is shown on the screen. This sensitive subject that's still relevent to this day, that being the plight of children in the Third World, is treated as little more than a running gag throughout the entire movie, with Katya sending him letters telling him how great her life is, and he responding telling her how much he's been inspired by her. The video shows he and his family/tribe living like kings off the Rice-Roni Katya mailed to him after she'd been fired, as he proudly proclaims, "WE'VE ALL GAINED TWO POUNDS!" For a start these people don't look anywhere near like they were starving to death to begin with, and secondly no charity would applaud this behaviour, as they insist that they're not giving out charity, but they're helping people help themselves. But still, she's a hero, and she's carried up on-stage by security just after they'd been told to throw her out. And it is here that she suddenly has her big realisation and starts apologising to everyone in the crowd she's wronged. Waiter Guy? Sorry for throwing away your book. Eliza? I fucked your boyfriend. But hey, we're still friends, right. Ex-Bossman? Killed your pets. There's tears and pleas for Charles to forgive her even as he's marching out of the party, which is just delaying the inevitable, as you know they're going to get together in the end. And indeed they do, sitting on the same fountain from their first date, after Charles lists all the bad things about her, then proclaims, "She's everything I didn't want, everything that's not on my list... and I can't stop thinking about her." You deserve a life of misery. Can this get any worse? She's got the man, it's hinted that she'll get her job back after she bumps into the Rice-Roni people at the party (IS THE ENTIRE WORLD AT THIS THING?!) and they tell her that the focus group loved her boring idea. Is there any other way this movie would like to dance on my groin. How about the last line, huh? Can you enspire rage from me?

"Cab fare from castle: $35. Rip in gown: $85. Finding happiness that has nothing to do with money, parties or designer clothing: waddayaknow, priceless."

OH, FUCK OFF!!!!!!

This is the point where I would usually do a sort of "final thought" and give my verdict on the film I've just watched, but I'm not sure it's needed here. I was totaly up-front about what I thought of this from the word go, and I think we all know what I'll be doing with this movie, so I can't think of anything I could put here that wouldn't be needless padding (and Lord knows my reviews need to be longer). Um... AHA! This is a Boulevard Entertainment DVD, so there must be somthing amusing about the packaging, so... BOX REVIEW! Well, to be honest, in one regard I'm a little bit disappointed, because thre's no spelling mistakes or anything like that, so I suppose I have to say yay pompetancy and knowing hw all your actors names are spelt. There is however something really cheap and thrown-together about the whole layout- the pictures are all grainy and the text is smooshed into really small and strange little boxes. It looks like something I could throw together on my computer. Infact, I'd be tempted to say this was a bootleg, were it not from the fact that I bought it from Woolworths.

Anyway, let's stop delaying the inevitable.


BINNED!If this is Woolworths' legacy, then maybe its best that it's dead.

Until next week, I'm The Cheap-Arse Film Critic, and I just had to kill alot of people!


Redunbeck said...

Funnily enough, I hate J-Love in everything she's ever done. Can't stand the bitch, and this just sounds like the lowest of lows.

Hope you find a movie you like to wash the bad taste out of your mouth!

The Cheap-Arse Film Critic said...

If nothing else, the next movie I do will be a refreshing change of pace from the stuff I've been covering recently.

Leeann H said...

It's refreshing to see you un-keep movies again. :D Speaking of films, I have my college film uploaded... D:

Will tune in next time!

The Lam said...

Besides pricing, how do you go about choosing which titles to review? There's tons of schlock to review, but I don't think I could sit through this one. You're the better man Techno.

The Cheap-Arse Film Critic said...

With the last couple, I think it really was a case of I just bouht them because they were al I could find. Usually there has to be something about the movie for me to pick it up, even if it's just the fact that I likt the title or the box art. I also have a dream list of movies I want to eventually cover.