Synopsis: Imagine a bar full of beautiful women who are not on a quest for Mr. Right but for ‘Ms.’ Right, and you have ‘Bar Girls’. A contemporary look at the exhilarating highs – and exasperating lows – of love, this breakthrough comedy follows the sexual escapades of a circle of friends who frequent the same watering hole… and the same bedrooms! Featuring “sly, critically barbed humor and dead-on performances” (‘The New York Times’), ‘Bar Girls’ is “a riot” (‘L.A. Weekly’)!
Stood up yet again at L.A.’s Girl Bar by her gorgeous but flaky friend, TV cartoon writer Loretta fears she may never find her soulmate. But then in walks Rachael, an aspiring actress who more than catches Loretta’s eye. The two fall head over heels in love… until an attractive cop seduces one of them… and then the other! Is this the end for Loretta and Rachael, or could it possibly be the beginning?
Bar Girls 5.25
eyelights: Camilla Griggs. its basic plot.
eyesores: its amateurish performances. its atrocious score. its awkward staging.
“You see that beautiful woman over there? I would like to buy her a drink.”
I really wanted to like ‘Bar Girls’.
I really did.
The 1995 motion picture, which is adapted from her own play by Laura Hoffman, follows the romantic entanglements of Loretta, a twentysomething cartoonist, on the West Hollywood bar scene. Loretta is progressive, neurotic and a romantic; after being stood up by her girlfriend, Annie, she meets Rachel and decides to buy her a drink.
That drink would lead to Love.
The low-budget production was made on a mere half-million dollars, most of which it was apparently borrowed from Hoffman’s relatives and friends. And it shows: the camera work is limited, the performances are amateurish, the soundtrack is beyond redemption, and what little of Loretta’s animation there is is laughably rudimentary.
I wanted to like ‘Bar Girls’ because it was a female-driven, gynocentric, lesbian picture of the likes I’ve rarely seen: quirky, self-reflective and sensible (I’m not saying that they don’t exist – I just haven’t seen many of them). And I also really enjoyed Loretta’s musings about love, relationships and lesbian culture.
But I just couldn’t get over the performances, which were turned in by the original cast of the play.
- Nancy Allison Wolfe SHOUTED EVERY SINGLE ONE of Loretta’s line.
- Liza D’Agostino over-emoted like a drama student (albeit much less so than her costars)
- The bartender (whoever she is) overplays every scene.
- Loretta’s butchy friend has a poorly-fabricated Southern accent.
- Justine Slater unsuccessfully tried to channel Meg Ryan as Veronica.
- Lisa Parker unceremoniously plopped out her lines as Annie.
Someone probably should have told the lot of them that you don’t play to the back row of a cinema.
The only noteworthy performance of the lot was a turn by Camilla Griggs as Loretta’s rival, J.R., a macho policewoman who is basically a dude, but played by a sturdy, attractive woman. Admittedly, Griggs does a lot of posing, as dudes do, but she doesn’t overdo it. She appeared real to me, though her acting is average.
The actors weren’t helped by the awkward dialogues; though Hoffman injected some interesting lines and dialogues, some of it wasn’t naturalesque. And director Marita Giovanni’s staging of the scenes made it worse (though she was admittedly limited by the production budget). She may even have poorly directed the actors.
The soundtrack was the worst part, though, starting with a gawdawful theme song by The Ringling Sisters over the neon-stained opening credits. It didn’t bode well and it went downhill, peaking when Loretta and Rachel playfully danced to a song that didn’t remotely have the same beat. It truly reeked of amateur hour.
There were some interesting moments in ‘Bar Girls’, though, like when Loretta and Rachel share their romantic histories by introducing an ex, then gazing off camera together before a clip of their exes played – on which they’d sometimes comment. That kind of quirkyness was silly, and very theatrical, which I rather enjoyed.
In one of those flashback sequences, Loretta’s current girlfriend, Annie, tells her about being in a four-year relationship with a straight woman, which I found interesting; the two were in love, though they had to have an open relationship for them to fulfill their sexual needs. I liked this early look at alternative models.
Lesbian cinema was just breaking out in 1995, with such notable films as ‘Go Fish‘, ‘The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love‘, and ‘When Night is Falling‘ finding audiences across North America. ‘Bar Girls’ came out (!) at the same time but shows none of the skill and quality that made these others enjoyable.
You need a really stiff drink to get through this one.
Date of viewing: May 20, 2017