Monday, August 22, 2016

35. Milk Money

EDITOR'S NOTE: Um, sorry for the unannounced nine-month hiatus. I've been busy!

Before I continue, a note about the rules: there are none. We're pulling a Xtina and going back to basics: the first person to comment wins, even if they've won before. I'll vary the times I post these to try to spread the wealth a bit. If the same person keeps winning... then I guess they'll just become the villain of the blog (VOTB).

It's a post-Trump world, y'all. There is no law, there is no decency. Nothing matters anymore. Welcome back!

The movie: Milk Money (Richard Benjamin, 1994)

Have I seen this movie before? No.

How I saw it: YouTube.

The recommender: Katie Hovanec

The rationale: How about a “Hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold” movie for families? Enter Melanie Griffith with her real, human face. Add a collection of adorably precocious fifth graders who just want to see a naked lady. The kids take their literal milk money (in a Ziploc bag), and bicycle into the big city (Cincinnati) to begin their quest. What ensues is disturbing, cute, and occasionally funny.

How do I know about this movie? I know two of the kids who were extras in the school dance scene.

My familiarity with this movie: Katie has said the words “milk money” to me at least once a week since last November. So if nothing else, I am v familiar with the title.

I have not personally met any hookers, let alone ones with hearts of gold. I’ve also never seen Pretty Woman. Boy, hookers really had a moment in the early ‘90s, didn’t they?

Plot summary yoinked from Netflix: “Three boys travel to the city, hoping to find a woman who'll undress for them. They find a prostitute named V who's willing to fulfill their request.” HER NAME IS V, Y’ALL. V GOOD.

What I thought of the movie: Katie went with “disturbing, cute, and occasionally funny,” and while I’m gonna lean heavily on the first of those descriptors, she’s not wrong. I lol’d a couple of times, and I was taken in by the performance of the great Ed Harris, who's downright charming playing against type as a sweet, guileless widower.

But yeah, there’s a lot of puzzling stuff here. The film is set in the early ‘90s, but has a distinctly ‘50s feel to it, down to the treehouse with the two cans connected by a string and all that. At times, the three boys, who are meant to be aged 12 or so, feel like modern kids; they watch a softcore porno film on VHS, like all the kids are doing these days. One of them wears a leather jacket and has an earring! So you figure they’ve got to be at least a bit streetwise here. But then they have this obsession with seeing a nudie lady that is almost quaint, except for when it’s not? Note the following exchange:

Kid 1: “You saw your sister naked in the shower?”
Kid 2: “Kind of. I was hiding in the laundry basket.”
They high-five.

THIS ACTUALLY HAPPENED. It’s all very strange. The kids generally talk like ‘50s versions of kids whose hormones just kicked in. Like if Eddie Haskell were scrounging around for live nudes. That’s the vibe here.

I know that this is a movie about a hooker who befriends three children and, as such, it requires a healthy suspension of disbelief, but in their quest for nudes these kids are just so inconceivably dumb. After pooling their titular milk money, they ride their bikes into the city and ask random women on the street if they’re prostitutes! It’s never worked for me, folks.

After getting their bikes stolen and being held up at gunpoint by a homeless guy, they are rescued by V the Hooker (V HOOKERISH), who takes her top off for them (but not the audience) and gives them a ride (like a car ride; take it easy, folks) to the suburbs, which she regards with the same kind of wonder that Sam Neill had when he saw the dinosaurs for the first time. The main boy, Frank, tries to get V the Hooker, who's bewitched by the suburban life and wants to escape her life of hookin’, and his dad, Sweet Ed Harris, to smooch and stuff.

The rest of the movie goes down exactly what you imagine it would, and that’s fine! It has its moments. For instance, the kids are learning about the female anatomy (of course they are) in health class while all this is going on. Young Frank fails his female anatomy test (as you do), and as punishment the teacher makes him give an ORAL PRESENTATION TO THE CLASS ABOUT THE MATERIAL WAIT WHAT. First of all, why would you devote an entire class period to a reassessment for just one kid? That’s valuable time you’re wasting there! You have to imagine they had to move on to the male anatomy unit (I’m sorry, I had to). And second, any teacher who would make some 12-year-old boy stand in front of the class and lecture about the female anatomy should be immediately fired. They taught us not to do that on the first day of teacher school.

But so anyway, this scene, while pedagogically unjustifiable, is the best part of the movie: Frank locks the teacher out of the classroom and brings in V the Hooker to use as a demonstration of sorts. (Ignore, if you can, and I often couldn’t, the problematic nature of this scene, and indeed the film, in which V the Hooker has almost zero inner life to speak of, but whatever, she's got a heart of gold so she’s up for it.) The kids go wild for this. One kid is so excited he literally falls backwards out of his chair. I cannot deny laughing at that scene. Those kids were hootin’ and hollerin’ and I was all for it.

Other things were entertaining in perhaps less intentional ways. V the Hooker walks down the street in this small town and literally everyone does a double-take. Yeah, she’s dressed a little hookerish, but this is the ‘90s! The film has already established that there are softcore porno films readily available to the children of this town, on VHS, no less! And yet she's walking down Main Street and women are sneering “WHO IS THIS WHOOOOORE.

I also enjoyed the fact this is one of those movies that could not have been made post-internet. One of the kids says early in the film, “I know a place where the girls are naked all the time.” And he’s talking about Cincinnati! It’s safe to say their quest would have been a lot less harrowing even five years later.

Anyway. Obviously, this is not meant to be a realistic movie, and you’re supposed to find it charming and go with it, and for certain things I did. Ed Harris and Melanie Griffith have a nice sweet thing going on, and the kids, when not delivering ridiculously terrible dialogue, are fine. Other things were just too cloying for me, but that’s OK. I am probably not the target audience here. I rarely drink milk.

Am I happy I took Katie’s recommendation? You're dang right I am. If only because it proves that when I say I’m gonna do something, I’m gonna do it. Even if it takes me literally almost a year. It’s a good thing those kids weren’t relying on me to find them some nudes.

What’s next?

UPDATE: Evan "Chich" Chiacchiaro, a respected businessman and member of the community, recommends Pokémon: The First Movie: Mewtwo Strikes Back. Any excitement I had from restarting the blog is now gone.