Sordid Lives
dir. Del Shores
Opens Fri Sept 28 at the Varsity.

When I am FInally close to death from smoking too many Tareyton 100s, I'll be clawing at my oxygen tent with Lee Press-On Nails, cursing writer/ director Del Shores for stealing away two hours of my precious life with this shrill, sloppy trash about a "zany" Texas family.

This story about a family of hicks arguing over whether or not to let their cross-dressing Brother Boy (the oddly touching Leslie Jordan) out of the loony bin for Mama's funeral might have been fun in Shores' long-running play, but as a filmmaker he has managed, without prejudice, to drain nearly every drop of humor out of rednecks and faggots alike--not a simple task.

Sure, there's the incoherent script, the video transfer that makes the poor actors look like they're bobbing in a Vaseline sea, and the sickening flip-flop between "heart-tugging" coming-out story and grotesque slapstick. But the most distressing thing about this film is its unhealthy delight in mortifying the flesh of its mostly middle-aged performers.

Beau Bridges may be a fine actor but I could have lived out my days without knowing about his luxurious back hair. And what's with the lighting that makes poor Olivia Newton-John look like she's losing a protracted battle with Hepatitis C? But nothing in this mess depressed me as much as the sight of Rosemary Alexander (as Dr. Bolinger) with her breasts swinging willy-nilly as she attempts to seduce Brother Boy. Now, Alexander is a lovely older woman, but, unforgivably, Shores uses her nudity as justification to ladle molten contempt upon her unlikable character.

In the opening of the film, the pretty-boy Ty (Kirk Geiger), an obvious stand-in for Shores, mutters to his shrink, "I wish the kids that made fun of my ass could see it now. I've done a lot of work on my ass."

After sitting through this unfortunate directorial debut, I can't help thinking that Shores would have benefited from a little more time in film school and a little less checking himself out in the gym mirror.

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