Monday, February 8, 2010


"Satisfaction", starting Justine Bateman, Julia Roberts and Liam Neeson, among others, came out in 1988. Or as I like to call it "in the midst of my formative years." Because of that I remember it with great fondness and even use one of its lines fairly often ("where're the dips?" "all the dips are dancing") despite knowing that no one else has any idea what I'm talking about. Now that I have Netflix, I am able to relive these formative years with my grown up eyes and see if the movies stand the test of time.

Satisfaction is the story of a girl rock band, Mystery, who is hoping to spend the summer after high school graduation playing a gig at the beach. The band is made up of an odd collection of women (or stereotypes, as some might describe them) and a surprising amount of cowbell. And frankly, despite the presence of the cowbell and Justine Bateman's surprisingly low singing voice, the music isn't bad. Bateman, set up as the breakout star, plays the band's frontwoman who is also the high school valedictorian. Her best friend, the "slutty one" is played by Julia Roberts, who is as completely captivating and charming as she is in
Pretty Woman (which released two years later). The "hoodlum" and "druggie" are also represented in this mix of girls that are inexplicably friends despite having nothing in common except the neighborhood where they grew up, a love for rock and roll, and some decent harmonies. To add some comic elements, after losing their keyboardist they recruit a nerdy dude (from Shag!) to drive the van and tickle the electric ivories.

There is a ton of drama crammed into this story: dreams crushed, dreams realized, sex, drugs, the obligatory rock and roll, attack dogs, broken hearts, classism, and a bar fight. Seriously. I think the main problem with this story is just that - there is too much happening at the same time, too many characters and too many stories. And I think this is why Justine Bateman didn't become the breakout star: though her thread in the storyline was almost interesting (mostly because young Liam Neeson is wounded and beautiful and compelling) the other stories distract from it, and every time Julia Roberts is on stage she overshadows the rest of the crew. Other summer movies from around this time (Shag,
Summer School, and Dirty Dancing) manage to have one strong storyline and the side stories fit into it somehow. The side characters may fall in love, but the main point of the story continues. The side characters may grow as individuals, but the main character is the catalyst for the plot. Satisfaction, while a decent flick seems scattered and disjointed. I think you want to like this movie when you turn it on, but maybe it tries to hard to be all those other summer movies combined and never quite comes together around one important thing that the viewer can get behind (the way that Summer School made you want to rally around the summer class passing their exam, or the way that Dirty Dancing made you see how Baby and Johnny somehow fit and should be together).

Sentimentally, Satisfaction still rates 4 weirdly clanged cowbells out of 5 for me. But from a movie review standpoint, I have to be real with myself and you, and give it about 2 1/2 blue pills out of 5. If you like to see the stars before they were stars, or you like movies with music (like I do), then check it out. Otherwise, grab one of the other - better - movies mentioned above, pop some popcorn and enjoy some mindless summer fun sans Mystery.


the hamster said...

i found this mom and pop video store in kansas city that rented four non-new release films for four nights for four dollars. this was before netflix and red box, and the deal was solid gold. so the wife and i watched loads of films from our "formative years," and realized, as you did, that the sentimentality barely made some of those films watchable.

however, there were some gems in the mix, too. and it was during this season that we rediscovered the genius of john hughes and the glory of the rocky and bullwinkle show. sometimes, it's fun to revisit our childhood through our adult eyes.

this was a great review, tiff, and the perfect summertime juxtaposition to these nasty winter days in the republic. maybe that's my answer: i need more summer time movies during this bleak season. if i can't get real sun, i'll just vicariously soak it up through the monitor.

Tiffani R said...

When I lived in Greenville, there was a video store called "G.E.T. Video" (which stood for: Greenville Entertainment Tonight) - and they had a 5/$5 deal. When my roommate and I didn't have plans we'd look at each other and say, "Wanna do five for five?" My problem is that I'm way less adventurous with old movies than new ones - I just want to rent my old faves!

The weather here in LA has been more delightful than frightful lately (though the rain was pretty bad) but I think you're right: Nothing beats the winter blues like an old friend especially if that old friend is starring Judd Nelson, John Cusack, or Mark Harmon. I'm adding Summer School to my queue immediately.

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