Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Movie Review: Bang Bang Baby: A Sudden and Surprisingly Dark Fable

Bang Bang Baby comes on like a cross between Top Secret!  And Psycho Beach Party at first.  It treats its heroine’s dream to become a teen idol with absolutely sincerity while surrounding her with goofy stock characters: the drunken yet eloquent father, the creepy stalker intended to provide a counterpoint to the dreamy, perfect hero; the scenery-chewing aw-shucks movie hero stuck in a small town; even a folksy moonshine slinger.    

Stepphy (played with deft skill by Jane Levy) is a teenager in a sleepy Canadian town who dreams of escaping the mendacity of it all to become a famous singer and actress.    Held back by her booze-addicted dad, who hasn’t gotten over his wife’s long-ago death, Stepphy’s dream of winning a contest is crushed by her father’s negligence.  She attends the school dance and makes a scene, leaving drunk in the front seat of school creep Fabian.  His attempt at making out with her passed-out body is averted when his chosen make-out spot, the recently-automated town chemical plant, starts to spew purple smoke. 

Stepphy flees into the woods, where she accidentally meets teen idol Bobby Shore, passing through town with his German agent.  Stepphy, a mechanic who mostly takes care of the garage her father runs, offers to fix the car and asks her father to let Bobby stay under their roof.  Romance soon blooms, but as the purple smoke gets thicker and something starts squirming in Stepphy’s stomach happiness threatens to elude her.

A wacky sci-fi ending is nearly assured by its set-up – which is when Bang Bang Baby shocks its audience by turning on a dime and becoming a sincere melodrama. 

WARNING: the spoiler zone is for unloading of spoilers only.  And I seriously suggest you see this movie before reading that spoiler.

In which the audience will never suspect that the mist, the town’s mutations – even Stepphy’s failed liaison with Bobby – have all been delusions conjured to metaphorically explain and support the self-delusion and depression Stepphy has been suffering ever since Fabian raped her unconscious body the night of the dance, to survive their dull and abusive marriage and unwanted pregnancy that resulted.   She had been strongly considering suicide until snapping out of it.  The mist lifts.  Fabian realizes she’s going to leave and take the baby and she apparently kills him in self-defense before running away to the big city with the baby (surprisingly leaving her still-alcoholic-in-reality father behind to find his body).

This meaty dramatic section packs quite a wallop, and Levy acts the holy hell out of every inch of it.   It explains both the melancholy nature of even the sharpest bits of humor in the first section of the movie – and why Fabain sprouts a mouth on the side of his neck, double-talking to the very end.  The end result is an eerie combination of the Zucker brothers and David Lynch, well worth a viewing if you’re in the mood for something unusual.

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