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The Banger Sisters
A new Comedy starring Goldie Hawn, Susan Sarandon, Geoffrey Rush
Review by Stewart Clayton

Studio: Fox Searchlight Pictures
Director: Bob Dolman
Screenwriter: Bob Dolman
Starring: Goldie Hawn, Susan Sarandon, Geoffrey Rush, Erika Christensen, Robin Thomas, Eva Amurri, Matthew Carey

The Banger Sisters, is a girl-girl buddy picture starring Goldie Hawn and Susan Sarandon. Although the story is simple Hollywood feel-good fare, it is notable in that the two leads are fifty-something females. While aging male actors still highlight many marquees these days (De Niro, Schwarzenegger, Pacino, for example), it seems quite rare for a movie to headline a woman who is over forty. never mind fifty. Writer/director Bob Dolman should be commended for creating this showcase for these two veteran actresses—however mediocre the end product may be.

Hawn is the sunshiny centre of attention in a role seemingly written for her flower-girl poster child image. She plays Suzette, an aging hippie-slash-groupie in today’s L.A., blissfully stuck in a time warp. All her reference points are either ghosts (e.g., Jim Morrison, Frank Zappa) or virtual dinosaurs (e.g., Rod Stewart).

When she loses her job at a rock and roll club, she drives to Phoenix, hoping to reconnect with (and borrow money from) her groupie partner ‘Vinny’ a.k.a. Lavinia (Sarandon), whom she hasn’t seen in twenty plus years. On the road she meets a fellow fifty-something, a writer (Harry played by Geoffrey Rush) in the midst of a crisis of his own, and with his own motivation for journeying to Phoenix (the locale is significant for the rejuvenation of the characters—get it?).

Much of the humour in the movie derives from the contrast between the still free-loving Suzette, and both Sarandon’s and Rush’s uptight characters. Lavinia is a very well-to-do, respectable, bland housewife, whose wardrobe consists of various shades of beige. Harry the writer is constipated, celibate, obsessively tidy. Soon enough, Goldie’s charms affect both of these characters and they are suddenly seeing the world through her rose coloured glasses. This is a coming of age story for fifty- somethings.

Added to the mix are Lavinia’s two teenage daughters, who as teenagers, are of course going through their own crises. In the end it is the high-achieving elder daughter who summarizes the moral of the story in her high school graduation valedictorian speech. Like Goldie, and the classic rock soundtrack, the film’s simple message is also a blast from the past: ‘be yourself; let it all hang out.’ Groovy baby.

The screenplay is a little too simple and slick: everything gets resolved neatly and the main characters all become a little wiser and stronger. If you’re like, into the vibe, man, you can go along for the ride and share a few laughs and perhaps even a few sentimental tears.
On the plus side there are no blatant false notes, and no outright groaners, which can be an issue with these formula movies that tread close to sentimentality. A couple of scenes are even very funny, especially a classic scene where Suzette and Vinny share a toke while looking at some spicy photos from their groupie days.

The Banger Sisters treads somewhat familiar ground as 'American Beauty' covered (mid-life crises, dysfunctional suburban family), but is nowhere as complex or as satisfying.
© Stewart Clayton Sptember 23rd 2002
Ed's Note: It opened at number two in the box office late Setember 2002

Stewart Clayton email:

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