Wednesday, November 05, 2008

"Repo! The Genetic Opera"

Some movies are just not for everyone, while others are for seemingly no one. I’m not actually sure who the audience is for “Repo! The Genetic Opera,” as I think I may be one of a dozen people who’s an equal fan of horror films and musicals. But at one point in the movie, during an on-stage performance, Paris Hilton’s surgically grafted-on face falls off her head; that’s just one of the sorts of images you can find in Darren Lynn Bousman’s “Repo!” that other movies just can’t rival. This horror-musical is complete schlock, and not fully successful schlock at that, but there’s undeniably pleasures to be had during its 90 minute duration, and it’s be tough to find much more interesting/ambitious projects in 2008. Based on an underground 2002 stage play (which Bousman directed) and taking place in 2056, an epidemic of organ failures has run rampant. A multi-billion dollar company called GeneCo, run by Paul Sorvino, begins to offer organ transplants via payment plans for those lacking sufficient funds to purchase the body parts. However, if you miss a payment, the repo man (Anthony Stewart Head) is sent out to reclaim the organ. We get about three related story strands, and all roads lead to the finale at the much-touted Genetic Opera, headlined by robotic-eyed Blind Mag (Sarah Brightman). As a rock opera, the entire film is sung-through, and while the songs aren’t BAD—they’re serviceable—they’re also what keeps this from being a totally recommendable experiment. There are traces of Sondheim – the music is as atonal as can be – but nowhere near the quality, and though occasional bars are catchy, rarely does an entire song warrant being remembered.

It is not, as Ms. Hilton proclaimed on Letterman, “Like ‘Rocky Horror Picture Show’ – but better.” In fact, there are moments where one is tempted to look away out of embarrassment. The direction seems aimless, with Bousman having little idea where to point his camera, resulting in the film’s look varying between ‘music video’ and ‘porn flick’. Still, there’s an undeniably compelling visual element to it all, especially the production design, with so much to look it, all the more impressive for being done apparently on a smallish budget. Sorvino deserves points for camping it up the hardest in a film full of over-the-top B-grade actors, while leading lady (and former Spy Kid) Alexa Vega all-too-often employs the Hilton/Lohan style of singing, and it’s disappointing Brightman (“The Phantom of the Opera’s” original Christine) isn’t better utilized. Still, Hilton herself seems to be having fun here, even if she doesn’t seem quite aware what the movie she’s starring in is (nor did she on Letterman, where she described it as “a comedy”). It’s not a movie I can quite recommend or embrace – unsurprisingly, the reaction at my screening was brutal – but for those, like me, who rarely find ambition to be a bad thing, should at least find it tremendously interesting. Hell, you even get an awesome cameo by Joan Jett. Overall, I had fun, I was entertained, I’d watch it again; If only the music was any good, it’d really be something to see.


Post a Comment

<< Home