Monday, September 15, 2008

Hugo Pool (Robert Downey Sr., 1997)

Those looking for Alyssa Milano-based titillation–you know, like the kind you accidentally stumbled upon in Embrace of the Vampire–will disappointed with Hugo Pool, a curious comedy from Robert Downey, Sr. (Greaser's Palace). Those, however, looking for Alyssa-based titillation of a more banjo playing nature will be delighted with what the shapely young actress brings to the hottie table as Hugo Dugay, a diabetic pool cleaner who employs the help of her dysfunctional parents on her quest to service forty-something swimming pools in one day. Now, I don't want to describe the characters Hugo runs into on this quest as "quirky," but the film leaves me choice. Instead, I think I'll call them "beyond quirky." I mean, they're so quirky, they make Crispin Glover seem like a florist (which is still kind of quirky, if you think about it). This isn't a bad thing, because it was their collective offbeat attitude that kept things interesting for me. Each pool brings the wide-eyed Hugo in contact with new level of strangeness. Whether it's the socialite (the leggy and always fabulous Ann Magnuson) who likes to fake drowning just so her Canadian lifeguard can have an excuse to press his muscular torso up against her bongwater-infused frame, or the perverted old man who is willing to give away his retirement annuity for just one peek down Hugo's shorts, these, and a cavalcade of other weirdos (a totally demented Robert Downey Jr. randomly appears an extra murdering film director) give the film an extremely off-kilter vibe.

The creamy, chlorine-infected centre of the film is the touching relationship that forms between Hugo Dugay and Floyd Gaylen (a strikingly handsome Patrick Dempsey), a man living with ALS who tags along with Hugo and her gambling-obsessed mother (the occasionally luminous Cathy Moriarty) on their cleansing adventure. It's quite poignant in a he talks through a voice box, her main concern is picking leaves out of other people's glorified puddles kinda way.

I liked how the fantasy sequences that revolved around Hugo were sporadically inserted throughout the film. These sequences gave Alyssa Milano a chance to make use of that unconventional titillation I was referring to earlier; as the gorgeous actress cranks up the eroticism in a series of dreamy vignettes. However, it was Alyssa's subtle acting, unique walk (she shuffles with a zany flair), and the nonjudgmental spin she brought to her character that impressed me the most. This is definitely Milano's best work since Dance 'Til Dawn.

The film's biggest laughs/confused looks came during the scenes with Malcolm McDowell and Sean Penn (Fast Times at Ridgemont High). The kooky factor goes through the top part of a building's structure when these two unexpected knuckleheads are onscreen. Mr. McDowell plays Hugo's recovering drug addict father (he injects heroin into the arm of a hand puppet that bares his likeness); while Penn is a peculiar stowaway in blue shoes. They spend the majority of the film inside a water truck (Hugo has instructed her father to pick up three thousand gallons of water from the Colorado River) and I found some of their exchanges to be contractually hilarious, especially the ones that focused on Mr. Penn's shoes.

video uploaded by lolly4

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