Review by Hank Fontaine
*Note: For this review, I have decided to try a new format. Typically, I watch an entire film through, taking notes the whole time. Then, once the movie is over, I take some time to reflect and put my thoughts into a cohesive package.
But, in honor of the so-called â€œlive-tweetingâ€ of events, I decided maybe I would try to do a live review of Vividâ€™s Beautiful Stranger (2010). No filter, no retrospect, just a straightforward stream of consciousness account of the film as it plays. I donâ€™t know how well itâ€™ll work, but here goesâ€¦
*inserts disk and presses play*
Okay, Vividâ€¦ we get it. You’re a big olâ€™ porn production company and you undoubtedly have a shit-ton of overhead, but do we really need this many commercials for Vivid and Vivid-related products prior to the start of your movie? It is an all out barrage of toys, guitars, toys, clothes, phone sex lines, toys, etc.
And there arenâ€™t even any previews! We expect previews. We need previews. This is the time to start making popcorn, building a blanket fort, getting some tissue handy, whatever. But this is just commercials for products, one after another after another…
One commercial promises: â€œVivid girls have a PhD in fucking!â€ but judging by the models theyâ€™re using in some of these ads, Iâ€™m willing to bet these ladies have a hard time maintaining a competitive GPA at the local city college, let alone obtain a PhD.
Shout out to the anti-piracy PSA though! For more information on why porn piracy is so bad and for PVVâ€™s stance on it, go here. The Free Speech Coalition’s (FSCâ€™s) porn star all-star PSA is great, and I would hate to see our traditional porn companies put out of business by these â€œYouTubePornâ€ and bit torrent sites. This is the bright spot so far – fight the good fight!
*pauses movie at 1:06*
Okay one minute into this movie, and I feel like Iâ€™m lost already. I donâ€™t read synopses prior to watching any movie, just like I donâ€™t read movie reviews before going to the cinema. I donâ€™t want somebody else telling me what they think the movie is supposed to be about â€“ Iâ€™d rather make those judgments on my own, based solely on what I see.
So on the basis of the first minute, Beautiful Stranger has the look of and â€œart houseâ€ flick. This scares the hell out of me.
I feel like I need to point out that this is not director Kimberly Kaneâ€™s “first time” (ok, so maybe I read up on this one a little). Although the box says Beautiful Stranger is her directorial debut, I think they mean it’s her Vivid-proper directorial debut. She has actually been involved with the now-defunct (to my understanding) Vivid imprint, VividAlt, for years. Between Morphine (VividAlt, 2008), Triple Ecstasy (VividAlt, 2007), and Live in My Secrets (VividAlt, 2009)… among other more recent titles and a few other studiosâ€¦ sheâ€™s built up quite the filmography. But this is my first time watching any movie sheâ€™s directed, so Iâ€™m just gonna pretend that itâ€™s her literal first time.
As with anyone taking on this type of task for the first time, the results can be disastrousâ€¦ or perhaps you catch lightening in a bottle and deliver the goods, Quentin Tarantino; so Iâ€™m not writing Beautiful Stranger off yet.Â Letâ€™s just see what happens.
So far, we have a woman on a street corner (Savanna Samson).Â She is wearing a long duster-like jacket and little else. Another woman (Kimberly Kane) is spying longingly from an apartment window. The city is empty, dirty, desolate.
Probably Cleveland. Maybe Detroit
(another title directed by Kimberly Kane)
Candy Girls? Cut to a warehouse. At this point, Iâ€™m still unsure as to whether there is a story developing or if Beautiful Stranger is to be a series of vignettes. The candy girl must be the one in pink (Kristina Rose), but it said candy girls. The other (Bobbi Starr) is in black, maybe the girl from the window? Voiceover narration in the form of what could pass for beat poetry. How these two came to be together is a mystery. Iâ€™ll say this though: based on the way the â€œcandy girlâ€ is attacking the other girlâ€™s nether regions, itâ€™s apparent that she has not eaten a square meal in quite some time. She must be incredibly hungry.
This scene itself is decent (save for the way too obvious audio overdubbing). Thereâ€™s some foot fetishism and some stocking licking â€“ you know, the usual stuff that happens in an empty warehouse.
I find that I am incredibly bored early on. I donâ€™t know if this can be attributed to the direction/sequence of shots, acting and performing, or the constant sound of delivery trucks off in the distance.
Also: you know how, in super low budget Hollywood movies, you can sometimes see a boom mic appear at the top of the screen? I am super surprised we donâ€™t see at least seven of these mics poking in all over the place. From the types of sounds that are getting picked up, youâ€™d think there were mics everywhere, even in one of the girlâ€™s squishier areas. It makes it really difficult to concentrate.
More foot stuff.
(another title directed by Kimberly Kane)
*presses fast forward/frame advance*
Observations so far:
1) I do not know how they got into this warehouse in the first place, fine. But they seem to have somehow found a polar bear skin rug in thereâ€¦ Weird.
2) If you take a girlâ€™s pantyhose off and pull them over her head so it looks like sheâ€™s about to rob a bank, itâ€™s not sexy. Itâ€™s borderline creepy.
Back to the street corner where our duster-wearing woman stands alone, being spied on by the apartment woman. Narration/poetry would seem to indicate that the street woman (prostitute?) is the beautiful stranger, and that she is desired by the voyeur.
Okay, shit just started to get creepy.
Sidebar: car sex doesnâ€™t work for me. I myself have no experience picking up prostitutes, but I understand the concept. Economically speaking, you would want to go to the most easily available and convenient location. But that being said, dark alleys donâ€™t seem very romantic to me. I guess Iâ€™m just old fashioned.
Iâ€™m gonna say that this is definitely Detroit. Every scene is ending up in a warehouse, which I assume are old car factories. They all look so alike that Iâ€™m tempted to say the entire shoot was done in one single warehouse, just different angles. I imagine we are supposed to believe itâ€™s all different locations, but come onâ€¦ we know better, right?
This next sex scene, between the beautiful stranger and some dude who picked her up, is almost as bad as the whole Detroit location farce thing. I find myself distracted and wondering when the weird chick is gonna show up in the shadows.
Maybe thereâ€™s supposed to be theme, a plot, something. I canâ€™t figure it out though. Personally, I donâ€™t want to have to think this much when it comes to my porn.
Another warehouse interior with nothing but a big mirror lying on a red shag carpet in front of an antique couch. Apparently Ms. Kane thinks the masturbation above a mirror thing is clever or new. Itâ€™s not. I just keep thinking: â€œYou better get off that mirror, or youâ€™re gonna end up with all kinds of bad luck.â€
If I wasnâ€™t contractually obligated to finish this movie, I would stop it right now. If this were a theater, I would walk out.
Sidebar: I really like the couch! Well, I mean, not anymore. Anyways, itâ€™s actually more of a loveseat. Victorian Era if I had to guess, and Iâ€™m usually not even a fan of paisley. Iâ€™d hate to see the dry cleaning bill.
The black and white interludes are probably the most interesting part of the movie, even if I donâ€™t â€œgetâ€ Ms. Kaneâ€™s vision. They start and go nowhere, similar to the movie itself.
My thinking is this: either have a plot or donâ€™t. This movie seems to be sort of stuck in between the two, and I am so disinterested in everything it has to offer at this point. From the sex to the actors to the sound guy. Hell, I hate the gaffers and the key grips, and I donâ€™t even know what they do. I wonder what craft services served for lunch on the day they shot thisâ€¦
Oh wait, thereâ€™s more foot stuff. Nope, still donâ€™t care.
You know what thereâ€™s not enough of in porn? Hot candle wax…
â€¦and thumb sucking.
And you know whatâ€™s really sexy? Stalkers.
(another title directed by Kimberly Kane)
*nearing the endâ€¦*
Ultimately, buried within this half-assed attempt at an art film, there may or may not be an actual plot. But it would be impossible for me to spoil it for you, dear reader, as I myself have yet to understand whatâ€™s going on. This is what the box says:
â€œSometimes the beauty of a stranger can elicit the depravity of a soul. In perhaps her darkest piece yet, director and AVN Best Actress winner Kimberly Kane portrays a voyeuristic loner lost in a feverish obsession with lady of the night Savanna Samson… who is unaware of her captivated admirer.
Isolation and lust control Kimberly’s mind as she falls deeper and deeper into the beautiful and sometimes uncontrollable world of her innermost thoughts. Enter this world… and witness the perversity that transpires when Beautiful Strangers meet.â€
Whether or not our narrator ever ends up with the beautiful stranger is left to the imagination of the viewer. To draw your own conclusion. Very artsy.Â Needless to say, I hated this movie. I come away not knowing what is real, what is imagined, what is fantasy. Maybe that was the point? If so, it was completely lost on me.
So all that being said, if I could leave you with one piece of advice about watching Beautiful Stranger it would be this: do not watch Beautiful Stranger.
Recommended for: not me.
Girls: Kimberly Kane, Savanna Samson, Kristina Rose, Bobbi Starr, Aiden Starr, and Angelica Raven.
Guys: Mr. Pete, Anthony Rosano, Alec Knight, and Dennis Marti.
Directed by Kimberly Kane for Vivid.
Released in September, 2010. Buy Beautiful StrangerÂ (2010)Â here.
BTS: All very standard fare here, and I now know way more about the talent than I need to. I powered through tough. This is what I do for you, dear reader.
Mr. Pete, who has apparently been in the business for ten years, annoys me to no end. The bonus scene with Kimberly Kane and Mick Blue is okay, but at this point I am too far gone. Iâ€™m just trying to make it to the end. Going through the motions, as it were.
Oh and another thing: fuck you, Vivid. Contained within the DVD extras is a feature called â€œVivid Extras,â€ and hey guess what that is?? If you answered: â€œItâ€™s probably the exact same commercials for Vivid products that we had to endure at the beginning of the movie,â€ you would win absolutely nothing.
But youâ€™d be right.
The previously-mentioned “bright spot” – Anti-Piracy PSA sponsored by the FSC and directed by Michael Whiteacre…
Check out other PVV reviewsÂ here.
â€¦and why not enter this monthâ€™sÂ Screener Surprise? Fight piracy, get porn!!
Hank FontaineÂ â€“Â Hank Fontaine is an extreme swinger, cold cereal killer, part-time public nudist/exhibitionist, and burgeoning writer trapped in the mind and body of a near illiterate. He is not a porn aficionado, nor is he a porn connoisseurâ€¦ just a married guy in his early forties who likes to get his freak on. If these things interest you, maybe yâ€™all can be friends? Follow Hank on Twitter atÂ @HankFontaineEsqÂ and/or email himÂ here.