THE BANGER SISTERS
Director: Bob Dolman
Cast: Goldie Hawn, Susan Sarandon, Geoffrey Rush, Erika Christensen, Eva Amurri, Robin Thomas
MPAA Rating: (for language, sexual content and some drug use)
Running Time: 1:37
Release Date: 9/20/02
Review by Mark Dujsik
Good drama relies on conflict. The Banger Sisters is all about conflict, but it is not good drama. This is bad drama, because the conflict exists solely to have conflict. When one conflict is resolved, another springs up in its place—sometimes as a direct result, other times out of nowhere. It can be difficult to tell when a screenplay makes such an error, but when a screenwriter goes to the extent of placing a dog in the story simply to garner conflict, it’s pretty obvious. The movie thinks it’s about characters, which simply makes it worse. These people start at one extreme only to find themselves forced to another with no motivation to explain or guide the switch. There’s a sitcom-level of elements driving the proceedings of The Banger Sisters, and that’s far too low for this cast to be working with.
There’s a certain point in one’s life when it’s time to accept the past as past, but Suzette (Goldie Hawn) has yet to realize this. She works as a bartender where she’s worked for years and remembers the glory days when she used to be a groupie and an object of affection for countless musicians and roadies. Time has moved on without her, and she’s fired. Now she’s left with nothing and decides to meet up with her old best friend and co-groupie Lavinia (Susan Sarandon), who has moved to Phoenix and is married to a rich lawyer. Suzette gets stranded on her trip and is stuck asking for money for fuel at a remote gas station, and luckily for her, a failed screenwriter and neurotic named Harry (Geoffrey Rush) needs a ride (on the bus he had been on, two flies were "copulating" on his hand). The two talk on the ride: She tells him that money is a major factor in her trip, and he tells her that he’s going to Phoenix to kill his father. Once Suzette gets to Phoenix and sees how Lavinia has changed, she realizes that she can’t bring herself talk to her.
Of course she has to, otherwise we wouldn’t have a movie, and eventually the two meet. Lavinia doesn’t want Suzette to be part of her life—she’s moved on. Such a past would be a blemish on her social standing. There’s something with potential here, but the movie decides, like Lavinia, to go the conservative route. We can pretty much figure out that Lavinia will join Suzette in longing for the past, and the two will try to bring back the old lifestyle or at least its spirit. Of course they do, but writer/director Bob Dolman doesn’t deviate from the predictable in the least, and the conflicts get more and more routine as the story moves along. As soon as Lavinia decides she’s had enough of her repressed life and the conflict with Suzette subsides, suddenly she’s at odds with herself (even though she resolutely decides to try and bring back the past). Then Lavinia’s family begins to randomly hate Suzette, because she "ruined everything," even though nothing that goes wrong during Lavinia’s tryst with her former self. It’s just there for conflict.
The result is that the actors are continually at odds with the screenplay. Goldie Hawn is likable enough as Suzette, but it’s a one-gimmick character. Making her slightly more interesting for a bit is realizing that Hawn’s daughter Kate Hudson played a similar character in Almost Famous, and Suzette is like a present-day version. Geoffrey Rush has the misfortune of playing a character present only to expand the running time. The Suzette-Lavinia material is thin, so Harry fills in the space. The subplot involving Harry and his father is dramatically useless. Rush is a fine enough actor and makes us like him, but there’s no looking past the character’s uselessness. Then there’s Susan Sarandon, who is so good with the slight material that we realize what a shame it is that an actress is basically denied choice roles after a certain age. There’s a key scene at a dinner table where Lavinia suddenly decides to join Suzette. It’s a pretty sad writing moment but a brilliant acting moment. We don’t believe Lavinia would change based on the conversation, but even with such little setup, Sarandon makes us think she changed and had damn good reason for it.
The end of the movie drops below a sitcom level of simplicity. Everything is magically resolved, even though just before it, people are at each other’s throats. What happens in between to make everything better? Nothing. By all logical reasoning, Suzette and Lavinia should be ostracized by Lavinia’s family. It’s too bad Dolman didn’t leave it like that; it would have been a great place for the television spin-off to pick up.
Copyright © 2002 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.
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