Movie Review By Casey McCabe
Good satire is always a risky proposition. For starters, it has to cut the line between comedy and tragedy with almost surgical precision. Then it has to go out and scrape together an audience, because while Hollywood occasionally allows social and political satires to be made, it generally treats them like radioactive waste when it comes time to promote them.
I would like nothing better than to report that "Live Virgin" — just now getting a rep house release after two years of distribution limbo — is a victim of the latter, one of those devastatingly wicked little films that fell through the cracks and deserves special attention. So when I say that "Live Virgin" is a profound disappointment, rest assured that I've cut it all the slack I can possibly muster.
The premise for "Live Virgin," which has also been going by the title "American Virgin" held some promise. An opportunistic virgin, played by Mena Suvari, memorable for her role as an opportunistic virgin in "American Beauty," has agreed to be deflowered on a live, pay-per-view interactive TV event on her 18th birthday. So the table is set for a skewering of voyeuristic TV sensationalism. But then, if such an event were to be announced in tomorrow's paper, right next to the ratings for "Survivor" and "Big Brother" would we still have the capacity to flinch?
It doesn't matter because "Live Virgin" isn't interested in exploring the consequences of Going Too Far. Instead it hangs itself up with its own screwball plot. Suvari's virgin is being played between two pornography kings, one who happens to be her hypocrite father (Robert Loggia) the other, his hated rival (Bob Hoskins). Stumbling into the story at every turn is her erstwhile boyfriend (Gabriel Mann), who happens to be the son of a Sally Jesse Raphael-styled talk show host (Sally Kellerman), who promotes the event to boost her own shameless ratings. Writer/Director Jean-Pierre Marois keeps things chaotic for 87 hyperactive minutes that ironically feel much, much longer. By the time we get to the literal and figurative climax -- where the film suddenly decides that love conquers all -- it smells like a sellout. Except that the preceding antics and chase scenes didn't offer much of a challenge to begin with. Many scenes simply made no sense, existing only to pay off a toothless gag.
"Live Virgin" treats its provocative subject with B-movie instincts and even then the sniggering R-rated take on pornography and media voyeurism is neither sexy, satirical, nor a whole lot of fun. The truth is, some films fall through the cracks because they just don't have any meat on their bones.
© 2000 - Casey McCabe - Air Date: 7/26/00
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