Movie Review By Heather Clisby
'Palmetto', the latest film from the director of 'The Tin Drum,' Volker Schlondorff, is a story about a good man who ends up in a bad situation, mostly because when he does think, he uses the wrong organ.
At the film's opening, Harry Barber (played by the always-game Woody Harrelson) is released from a two-year stint in prison. Because he was convicted for revealing corruption in the sweaty Florida burg of Palmetto, his anger is understandable.
Lured back home by his talented and loving girlfriend, Nina, (played by the babe-a-liscious Gina Gershon) Harry wastes no time in mixing with the wrong crowd. Namely, the 'I'm-so-hot-I-can-barely-stand-myself character of Rhea Malroux, played by Elizabeth Shue. Rhea proposes a scheme that is sure to pay big: staging the fake kidnapping of her stepdaughter, Odette, and grifting her filthy rich husband, Felix, out of millions. Shouldn't be any problem, Rhea says, it's all Odette's idea anyway; all she needs is a threatening telephone voice and someone to pick up the bag.
While all the details are getting worked out, Harry and Rhea go about copulating. Here's where the film falters. 'Palmetto' tries so hard to be sexy that it becomes absurd. Mind you, I love watching attractive people mate just like the next person but the audience was laughing. Not good.
The problem festers with attempts at philosophical narration through Harry, as in 'there's nothing worse than a writer who doesn't have anything to say.' Yeah, tell me about it. Harry likes to order drinks and just smell them. Rhea likes to fondle cigarettes but doesn't smoke. Oooooo, aren't they peculiar?
No, they're not. The characters are flimsy at best. The only mildly interesting aspect of Rhea is her blue nail polish, the rest of the time she's heaving and prostrating and behaving like your basic silly whore. It's gratifying to discover at the end that she's probably clinically loopy.
Harry is just plain stupid. He's just spent two years in prison and he's never heard of DNA evidence? Not to trust greedy, horny women? Not to put dead bodies in the trunk and then drive like a maniac in the rain? And this is a man who gets appointed to the DA's office as a media liaison upon prison release?
'Palmetto' can't decide if it wants to be sexy, witty, suspenseful or farcical. Though it contains small dashes of each, it does not satisfy and you may leave the theater hungry for more.
© 1998 - Heather Clisby - Air Date: 2/11/98
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