The Banger Sisters (2002)

A pleasant but formulaic chick flick, which ironically condemns a character for revisionism and tidying up her past even as it ducks a ton of issues. Suzette (Goldie Hawn) and Vinnie (Susan Sarandon) were semi-famous in the late 60s and early 70s as groupies, collecting polaroids of 'rock cocks' and dubbed by Frank Zappa 'the Banger Sisters'; thirty years on, Suzette is still in the lifestyle, with breast implants, but gets fired from her job at what is now whiskyagogo.com and heads for Phoenix to hit up her old friend for a loan, picking up neurotic failed screenwriter Harry Plumber (Geoffrey Rush, still channeling some of Vincent Price) who is going back to his home town supposedly to shoot his father. Vinnie, it predictably turns out, has obliterated all trace of her wild history and only dresses in beige, living in a palatial spread with her lawyer husband (Robin Thomas) and two variously twisted teenage daughters. At first horrified to have Suzette back in her life, Vinnie eventually self-administers a crop haircut and gets back into snakeskin pants to go clubbing and lets slip some of her past to her family. 'How did Mom get to know so much about Van Morrison?' asks one of her daughters asks after Vinnie has explained what Suzette's Lizard King tattoo means. Of course, this reunion is benficial for everyone: Vinnie's elder daughter (Erika Christensen), who feels pressure to overachieve and has had a bad drugs experience at her prom, delivers a cheeralong valedictorian speech about not losing your true self, while Harry is jollied through sex and understanding out of a suicide attempt.

It's only possible to get away with this by downplaying some of the nastier things about the Almost Famous lifestyle (which featured Goldie's daughter as a proto-Banger Sister, remember). In a dark moment, the women admit that none of their famous brief lovers really cared about them (though they are sentimental about the safely-dead Jim Morrison), but there's no sense that these girls ever experienced the big downers of being a groupie. It's suggested at the beginning that Suzette is an alcoholic, but that goes away and there's no explicit mention of any drug involvement beyond Suzette's skills at getting Vinnie's daughter through a bad trip.

The leads are perfectly cast: Sarandon essentially does her Rocky Horror uptight-to-unhinged act and Hawn takes what may be her last shot at being a giggly flower child (there's a lot of foulmouth dialogue, but it's all inoffensive). Rush, a throwback to the ultra-neurotic male leads unbent by a romp with a kooky slut in Sweet Charity and The Owl and the Pussycat, overdoes it, but there's interesting, crazed work from Eva Amurri (Sarandon's real daughter) as the near-demented younger sister with a rattle in her throat and a tendency to crack up at the least setback. Written and directed by Bob Dolman.
KIM NEWMAN

First published in this form here.


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