Archive for January 16, 2009

Spring Breakdown

January 16, 2009

The first question that pops to mind regarding Spring Breakdown: Why is this thing rated R? “Crude humor and sexual references,” we’re told, but there’s nothing stronger than you’d see in a typical PG-13 flick. Or nothing I can recall. Most of the movie, in fact, defies memory. And that’s surprising, considering we’ve got Amy Poehler, Parker Posey, and Rachel Dratch.

These three comedy powerhouses play late-thirties women, bored and boring, who find themselves spending a week at a college spring-break bacchanal. Predictably, each of them learns important you-go-girl life lessons. Ten or fifteen years ago, they wouldn’t have had to learn anything. They could’ve boozed, fucked, and partied just like the boys do. But since they’re, like, old, we have to watch them being humbled and redeemed.

Missi Pyle doesn’t learn anything, and she steals the movie. She plays a blowsy southern broad about our heroines’ age who never stops partying. At certain points, the three leads are allowed that sort of freedom. Dratch, who also cowrote the story and coproduced, gives her rubber face plenty of play as a sexually frustrated woman who gets some alcohol in her and then wants something else in her. Poehler goes off with a group of seven insufferable popular girls, trying to be accepted into their fold. Posey gets stuck in the most disappointing subplot, keeping tabs on the daughter (Amber Tamblyn) of a hard-driving senator (Jane Lynch) who’s about to become vice-president.

Despite all that, the trio make fun company for 84 minutes, and Frank G. DeMarco’s cinematography is as colorful and candy-like as it was in his films for John Cameron Mitchell. Raunchy female-centered comedies are rare enough (I think you’d have to go back to The Sweetest Thing for the last one) that one wants to give Spring Breakdown a pass just for existing. But that would be sexist, in a way; Poehler, Posey and Dratch are strong enough not to need the charity of lowered standards. I laughed a few times, mostly at Missi Pyle’s antics. If the movie does nothing else, it gives Pyle a juicy supporting role. And the climactic musical number is nicely played. The film is comfort food when it could’ve gone to cult-classic heaven.