Execrable: A Reason to Believe

A Reason to Believe (1995)
Directed and written by Douglas Tirola
Produced by Ged Dickersin, Douglas Tirola, Christopher Trela
Starring Allison Smith, Danny Quinn, Jay Underwood, Kim Walker, Georgia Emelin, Keith Coogan, Christopher Birt, Lisa Lawrence, Obba Babatundé, Holly Marie Combs, Mark Metcalf, Robin Riker, Afton Smith, Joe Flanigan, David Overlund, Jimmy Kieffer, Mary Thomas, Michelle Stratton, Rachel Parker, Sally Kenyon, Andy Holcomb, Cary Spadafora
Generous hallmarks epitomizing shitty social dramas of American cinema in the ’90s are encompassed in this especially leaden waste of time: hideously drab raiment, furnishings and photography; a dire dearth of congenial characters; semi-coherent dialogue; maddening incommunication; a majority of (largely superfluous) scenes that tread water at a glacial pace; conflict between two unsavory factions morally distinguished only by the upright position of one assumed on repugnantly ideological grounds. Shortly after a university’s fraternity of sexist creeps clashes publicly with its equally distasteful feminist cadre, an imprudent student (Smith) in drunken, scantily togged attendance at a party held by the former is raped by a frat boy (Underwood). Initially, she hasn’t the backbone to confess this misfortune to her craven boyfriend (Quinn), nor has he to confront her assailant, even when he merely presupposes her infidelity. Humdrum hearsay and hassles drag tediously to the rapist’s expulsion from both his fraternity and college, and a presumed investigation by local police, after the ornery, opportunistic president of the school’s women’s students group (Emelin) obligates his victim to criminate him. As a feminist, Tirola was one of a few who pioneered America’s mainstream cinematic transition from feminism’s frequently illogical, yet often justifiable second wave to its psychotic third; as a filmmaker, he’s as lazily unimaginative and inexpert as any hack who’s exploited a controversial issue. Most of the picture consists of prosaic pans and fecklessly framed wide shots cut badly in alternation with close-ups, and well over half of the scenes in its half-hour of story stretched beyond 100 minutes are filler, such as classes wherein an overbearing professor (Babatundé) demands that his students parrot propagandistic platitudes in an unintended mockery of Socratic method. Performances are for the most part adequate, but Emelin noticeably struggles to remember her largely ludicrous lines, peppered with flagrantly false statistics and politicized prattle. Metcalf and Coogan are amusingly cast against and to types as the university’s dean and a stoner, the movie’s only likable people. In contrast, Emelin’s barracuda is somehow slightly more repellent than Underwood’s petulant rapist (essentially still Bug from Uncle Buck); that she expresses momentary glee upon apprisal of his felony for the advantage it affords in a neutral context suggests that Tirola’s just as sleazy as his deuteragonist. One of the film’s few praiseworthy points is its accurate depiction of casual rape, and it might’ve been partly redeemed had it explicitly cautioned young women about the dangers of unaccompanied carousal in certain venues, or advised them how to immediately report incidents of sexual assault to ease enquiries and arraignments, but Tirola shirks the social responsibility that his harridans demand from the opposite sex. Instead, this abominable agitprop promotes nothing save credulity to every allegation and the unattainable lunacy of social justice — always a disservice to anyone assaulted or wrongly accused.

Mediocre: Lying Eyes

Lying Eyes (1996)
Directed by Marina Sargenti
Written by Paul B. Margolis
Produced by Suzy Beugen, Charles Morales, Chuck McLain
Starring Cassidy Rae, Vincent Irizarry, Allison Smith, Ashlee Levitch, Jamie Rose, Sherry Hursey

Step #1: Scout the cheerleaders performing at a local high school’s pep rallies to locate that special someone
Step #2: Meet her by rear-ending her Honda with your Mercedes; seize the moment with the trappings of your wealth and your inimitable urbanity
Step #3: Recompense her for those introductory damages and include a new CD player and some banal albums before you invite her to dinner
Step #4: Regale her at a swanky restaurant, oozing charm as your discuss her aspirations
Step #5: Invite her to your beach house, where you’ll gift her lingerie and sate her sex
Step #6: See that she’s wholly unaware of your duplicitous lifestyle and/or previous, parallel relationships
Sticky step six slips from the grasp of a handsome lawyer (Irizarry) in his early thirties who successfully courts a beddable high school senior (Rae) by adhering to steps #1-#5, but can’t keep her philia when his obsessive attention and an aggrieved party’s campaign of harassment negatives her zeal. Performers and photography share a parity of pulchritude in yet another gratifyingly glossy Hearst Entertainment Production for Lifetime, which amounts typically to less sense than satisfaction. Tuned to moisten hausfrauen, Irizarry’s silly, soapy suavity is enhanced by dialogue as droll as the menacing messages received by Rae’s everygirl, and while the story’s stimulated by a nefarious reveal early in the third act, its sequent scheme raises numerous unanswered questions and culminates in a premeditated, attempted murder that’s unresolved at a tidily vapid denouement not a minute later. At least half of the target demographic will be too soused on plonk or farctate with Häagen-Dazs to notice these loose ends before bedtime any more than they might distractively drifting close-ups or frequently daffy dubbing, both of which are fodder for the riffing classes.
Recommended for a double feature paired with The Babysitter’s Seduction.