Tighten the safety straps on your overpriced sex chair, because I'm about to give you an unasked for tour of the inside of a budding rock star's dream-filled brain. Well, a Sue Saad aficionado named Albert Pyun (Nemesis, Radioactive Dreams) will be conducting the actual tour, I'm just a glorified messenger. But either way, that's exactly what we get in Vicious Lips (a.k.a. Pleasure Planet), a film about big dreams and even bigger hair colliding in a new wave extravaganza of intergalactic proportions. Tired of focusing on stocking covered legs and hands sporting gloves without fingers, I chose to aim the single-minded barrel of my leering gaze on the hair and makeup of the four gals that populate this strange and almost wonderful universe. And you know what? It wasn't that hard. All I had to do was tilt my head back ever so slightly, making sure to keep my eyes trained in the same direction I was tilting, and just like that, I was experiencing the sensation that comes with looking up. What I did see? Oh, man, where do I begin? Let's just say, watching a movie where rockers from outer space cavort and frolic with the confidence that accompanies a large, bountiful head of hair will always be more enjoyable than one that features ladies with limp and unmanageable hair. I mean, what's the point of even bothering to lift your head up if the hair that greets the pain and sweat of all your elevating effort hasn't been teased, crimped, or combed to the point of mental exhaustion?
On a bluish sphere some people like to call Earth, many creatures are trying to improve their genetic output by hurling themselves headfirst into dangerous climates in a desperate attempt to stave off extinction. The reasoning being that the extreme nature of the environmental change will cause their respective DNA to fluctuate, making it stronger, more resilient. But what do you do if your particular species has already reached the pinnacle of perfection? Well, in the case four new wave chicks from the "farthest reaches of the galactic perversion," the only rational option is to rock and rule the ill-defined void that is deep space.
You see, your average new wave chick is the most evolved entity on the planet. And since the future will always be located somewhere between 1978-1985, these fashion forward gals have taken the next logical step, and that is, space travel. It's true, I have no evidence that the four main characters who populate Vicious Lips are even from California, let alone the Valley (the made-up birthplace of new wave). However, the fact that the character's back stories are nonexistent means that you're free to create ones of your own.
I wish more films would leave gaping holes in the narrative structure, because other than a few scraps of information dropped here and there, Vicious Lips is pretty empty when it comes to character development. Which sort of sounds like a negative, but like I said, it gave me the opportunity to fill in the blanks. I know, it's the job of the screenwriter, not wily audience members to spin a film's tale. But I thought the narrative shortcomings were awkwardly charming at times. In other words, as far as I'm concerned, the members of the Vicious Lips were all highly evolved Valley Girls who lived in the future, but looked like they were from the early 1980s, which is technically, you got it, the future.
A dizzying amalgam of Pitch Black, Racist in the Year 3000, Persona, and Jem and the Holograms, Vicious Lips is all about reaching for dreams. In non-vague terms, the film follows the members of a music group (called the Vicious Lips) fronted by four large-haired women as they attempt to literally transverse the vast emptiness of space in order to perform a gig at Maxine's Radioactive Dream, a prestigious music venue on the other side of the galaxy. Having just lost their lead singer, the combative Ace Lucas (Angela O'Neill), to a rival band, the three remaining ladies find themselves without a voice. Luckily, their excitable manager, Matty Asher (Anthony Kentz), is able to find another singer (one sporting a space scrunchie) just in time for them to perform their catchy brand of synth rock at the Spacecraft Lounge, a local dive famous throughout the known universe for its chicken wings, the best this side of Marejaretus VI.
While keyboard player Wynzie (Linda Kerridge) and guitarist Bree (Gina Calabrese) welcome Judy Jetson (Dru-Anne Perry) into the lips fold, their chief songwriter Amanda (Shayne Farris) isn't convinced that she has what it takes to advance the band to the next level. As you would expect, an air of mistrust forms between them. Permeating throughout most of the film, Judy and Amanda's sparring is the signature conflict of the piece. In other band news: To save money on posters, Matty changes Judy's name to Ace Lucas (he's too cheap to print up new ones).
Impressed by what she heard over the video phone at the Spacecraft Lounge (the Vicious Lips perform a raucous ditty called "Save Me," which in reality is sung by the awesome Sue Saad), Maxine Mortogo (Mary-Anne Graves) invites the Vicious Lips to play her nightclub: Maxine's Radioactive Dream (a place crawling with shirtless male bouncers and upright aardvarks who seem to be channeling Max Melodramatic from Café Flesh). Commandeering a spaceship, Matty and the band immediately take flight (like I said, Maxine's venue is on the other side of the galaxy). Only problem being that Matty isn't a very attentive pilot. Although, to be fair, it's pretty hard to concentrate on space travel when Ace is singing "Light Years Away" (vocals by Mary Ellen Quinn). Of course, while Ace is wailing, Amanda can be seen scowling in the background. All this hatred toward the new Ace has got me believing that there was something cunnilingual going on between Amanda and the old Ace.
Anyway, crash-landing on a desolete planet, Bree, Wynzie, Amanda (she's actually listed in the credits as "Mandoa," but I prefer to call her "Amanda"), and Ace try to make due while Matty goes looking for help in the amongst the sandy dunes (i.e. get accosted by two scantily clad desert dwellers played by Jacki Easton Toelle and Tanya Papanicolas). Unbeknownst to the frizzy bunch, but a beastly surprise (Christian Andrews) is lurking on board their downed starship.
An authoritative mane of hair is nothing without a strong-willed woman to stand underneath it, and Vicious Lips has four young jackanapes who looked like they were itching to get their gigantic wig on. Actually, make that three out of four young jackanapes. You see, in order to make the characters seem unique, you must add little nuances to each of them to prevent the audience from getting confused about who is who. The makers of Trip with the Teacher dealt with this problem by making Dina Ousley's Bobbie dress in all yellow.
Well, in this film, Bree (Gina Calabrese) doesn't sport big hair, nor does she wear any bight colours. In fact, she's the antithesis of new wave. At first I was annoyed by her normal looking hair (which is some times covered with a fedora). I was all like, "Who does she think she is? Someone tell her to put on a fucking wig." But then it hit me, having Bree be bland was what made her stand out from the others.
Just because Bree stuck out like a taupe thumb doesn't mean the other gals are an insipid mash of woebegone hair spray and frazzled platitudes. On contrary, Linda Kerridge's Wynzie fully embraces the rock and roll lifestyle as the band's resident fashion victim. Seemingly changing her appearance from scene to scene, the keyboard player for the Vicious Lips displays a slavish devotion to the cutting edge styles of the era. And while this dedication to funky duds is a desperate attempt to remain relevant in the youth-centric world of synth-rock, I though Linda did a terrific job of making Wynzie seem sympathetic in spite of her vacuousness.
Even though she is hardly ever seen without an irritated expression on her excessively made-up face, Shayne Farris' Amanda does have the distinction of having the film's largest hair.
Appearing to look embarrassed at times, Gina Calabrese (The Vals) seemed uncomfortable while on stage with the Lips. It's true, there could be a thousand different reasons to explain Gina's awkwardness, but I like to think the fact that her musical instrument looked like an all-in-one bug zapper, flamethrower, satellite dish was the main culprit.
Sheepishly looking back and forth, almost as if she was checking to make sure that a scornful Susanna Hoffs wasn't hyperventilating off to the side of the stage cradling a rusty paint scraper, Dru-Anne Perry explodes onto the screen as the newly minted Ace Lucas. Sure, the booming vocals emanating from her delicious mouth hole were provided by Sue Saad and Mary Ellen Quinn, but the eye movement was pure Dru-Anne. Utilizing her eyeballs to communicate the trepidation she feels over being named the new lead singer of the Vicious Lips, the stunning actress gradually stops nervously moving her eyes in a demented manner and begins to display a still-eyed brand of synth-rock confidence.
This new-found self-assurance is best observed when she wanders around what looks like the set used in the music video for The Romantics "Talking In Your Sleep" (a place where diaphanous drapery and deformed space mutants oversee the visual spectrum) and during the performance of "Lunar Madness," an exhilarating sequence that rewards the band, its squirrelly manager, and, in some respect, the audience, for the pain and suffering we all endured on that sand-covered, overly shaved bikini zone of a planet. Now, I wouldn't suggest that anyone skip the rest of the movie and only watch the last five minutes (after all, you'd miss a lot of wig-based squabbling), but the finale does do an excellent job of encapsulating everything that was righteously perpendicular about this film.
Oh, and the only cast member to possess the wherewithal to exert the power of their sturdy legs in any way, shape, or form during this film, Mary-Anne Graves manages to titillate and repulse simultaneously as chain smoking impresario Maxine Mortogo, the trendsetting owner of the Radioactive Dream (also known simply as "The Dream").
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Special thanks to the priestly denizens over at Mad Mad Mad Mad Movies for pushing my spiritual infrastructure in the general direction of the superb slab of incompetent trash.