Monday, June 2, 2014

The Foxy Merkins (2014): When Comedy Loses Heart

The Foxy Merkins (2014)
dir: Madeline Olnek

SIFF 2014 Film #5

According to Madeline Olnek, The Foxy Merkins has been in development, essentially, since Codependent Lesbian Space Aliens Seek Same was on the festival circuits in 2011. She teamed back up with Jackie Monahan and Lisa Haas to create a dry comedy about lesbian prostitutes who hook on the street. Not wanting a movie that deals with all the social stigmas and negative guilt feelings about prostitution, Olnek mainly set out to make a film that's just a series of sketches outlining a life of living on the street.

Lisa Haas stars as Margaret, a homeless lesbian who is trying to make it in New York as a new prostitute. Hampered by a timid demeanor, being of a large size, and shackled by thick rimmed glasses and allergies, Margaret finds it difficult to land a deal with even rich Janes who want to pay extra. She is befriended by Jo (Jackie Monahan), a rich hooker of experience, who takes Margaret under her wing to teach her the ropes of street hooking for lesbians, most of which includes hanging out in front of Talbot’s.

Margaret and Jo live in the bathroom of the Port Authority Bus Terminal, they drink toilet tequila, and see a bunch of strange clients, my favorite of which is an MFA Drama Student that they pick up outside a screening of the restoration of Lassie. The title comes from a trip to the graveyard to look for Margaret’s mom, and there’s a random guy selling merkins – fake pubic hair wigs – out of a trenchcoat.

Olnek’s intent is to make a movie that is hilarious, compared to a movie that is incisive. Their clients are normally rich married women who frequent Talbot’s, and they joke about past clients such as one who wants to stare at a woman’s bare breasts as she shouts “Flat Taxes!” At times, it almost seems like Olnek is going to tread into social commentary and then she bounces away from it. And, at other times, it almost seems like Olnek wants to develop the characters, but they’re only developed in the most shallow of ways. Jo is really a heterosexual and she ran away from her rich home. Margaret is actually border trailer trash. But, there isn’t much that dives deep into their characters.

The lack of depth in The Foxy Merkins is the most disappointing part of the movie. There isn’t much of a heart to The Foxy Merkins either, and the adventures into Jo and Margaret’s family life seem more like time filler than actual thought through plot developments. It isn’t substantial enough to make up for the lack of heart and empathy that Olnek had included in Codependent Space Aliens.

But, it’s still witty and funny and dry. Many of the individual scenes of The Foxy Merkins are hilarious on their own. And, I did find myself laughing my way through the film. But, the scenes didn’t add up to a great cohesive whole. In the end, I felt like this was a decent diversion, and entertaining. It’s funny and a good way to pass a lazy afternoon looking for some people doing strange things and being rather drily hilarious. But, don’t go out of your way to watch it on a big screen or anything.

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