Couple of weeks ago I talked about picking up two movies in the cheapo bin that turned out to be keepers. The first, Bickford Shmeckler’s Cool Ideas, is reviewed here. Today I’ll review the second, Rhymes with Banana.
This movie apparently has had two titles, or maybe three: Rhymes With Banana, Shake It Break It Make It Girls, and simply It Girls. It’s another one of those written-&-directed-by jobs that turns out to work well. Such projects can be disastrous, or they can be wonderful, but they’re seldom meh. This one packs quite a punch, even while it pretends to be a silly little movie about unnoticed people.
Two struggling actresses in their early twenties room together in New York, not getting much work, but dedicated to honing their craft 24/7 in a life of “eternal play.” They’re intensely best friends. Their apartment is a shrine to their art, their manic color sense, and their obsessions. They play innumerable games with one another and with the unsuspecting public. They seem always in sync.
A young man moves into the apartment next door. For reasons floating only in their wack brains, the heroines decide he must be a high-power talent agent. They embark on an escalating series of dramatic acts, games, impostures, intrusions, and impositions, trying to get their neighbor to a) admit he is a talent agent and b) represent them. Finally they decide to kidnap him and hold him hostage until he meets their demands.
This is where I’m probably going to hell. Because if the movie had been about two young actors who kidnap the young woman next door and try to force her to admit she’s a talent agent and then represent them, I’d be totally creeped out, I’d wake up screaming that night, and later I’d have a lot of cutting things to say.
Maybe it’s because the movie takes a long time to establish how hard these girls work to act well and take themselves seriously, and how incredibly bad at it they are. The only thing they can do is play. They’re good at that. And in spite of their most earnest efforts, they seem hopelessly nice. Maybe they telegraph “play” so well that my skin doesn’t crawl for their neighbor.
Maybe it’s because their neighbor presents himself with more than a little theatrical flair. It will turn out that he, too, has been misrepresenting himself, not just here, but almost continuously, for years.
Maybe it’s just my gender bias. They’re all just so cute, and nice, and as amateurishly criminal as they are amateurish at everything else, while being intensely earnest.
Their captive falls in love with one girl, and the other girl falls in love with him. A cop comes to the door, asking after the missing neighbor, claiming he’s been reported kidnapped. An ex-boyfriend learns the secret, but because he’s still in love, he won’t free the neighbor. The neighbor turns the tables on his captors half a dozen times, three times right at the end, and he still doesn’t get away. Heartstrings are tugged, but not enough to gag. Wackiness is non-stop.
I really don’t know why this movie works so well. If I read this description without seeing the movie, I’d be sneering. “Sounds painfully artsy.” “A man wrote this, right?” “A movie about young girls who can’t act, struggling to make it in the big city, bo-ring.” The whole thing walks all these lines all the time, and doesn’t, somehow, cross them.
I’ll probably have to watch it a few more times to figure it out.