The decision to film a love story may not be entered into lightly by some filmmakers. Despite the recent rash of successful female empowerment movies there is still something of a marketing albatross draped on the shoulders of the so-called “chick flick”. The challenge is that inherently this genre divides your prospective audience in half, as most testosterone-polluted males avoid weepy romance-tinged movies like they avoid the Oprah kiosk at Lillith Fair. Give writer/director C.W. Cressler credit; he gave it his best effort to dodge that label. Of course figuring out who was targeted with his fractured variation on the genre is another obstacle entirely.
Cressler throws a challenge right from the start—his love protagonist is played by Jeff Fahey—and from there on he continues to dare us to stay on board. Fahey stars as Joseph Spinelli, a quiet man who mostly keeps to himself, and as we have learned from local news broadcasts this means he will be found to be a complete sadist with an apartment full of dead bodies. This detail is attempted to be allayed by the fact that he only killed politicians and lawyers and the like, thus earning him the tag, “The Blueblood Killer”. Of course this preference of prey means the best attorneys will give him a wide berth and he’ll have to be represented by the yutz who draws the short straw in the public defender’s office.
Joe must have sensed trouble because at police headquarters he ramps up his charges by exploding a detective’s head with an office chair. And yes ladies, Mr. Spinelli is available to the right woman. The authorities conclude that our Joey has interpersonal issues and ready him for an all expense paid stay at the county psyche resort. You may worry that this change of venue may drastically pare down his chances at love, but let me remind you that the Menendez brothers managed to each land beaus while they were in stir. (I understand in order to get the attention of the brothers the women would send them e-mail, then retype the letter and send again.)
As he checks in to the mental health facility the director drills Joseph on the arcane details that normally wouldn’t concern him, but it serves well to give the viewer an idea of what takes place. The inmates have to wear electronic ankle cuffs that will incapacitate them if they attempt to flee, and a cheery airport-intercom voice reminds the incarcerated that tampering with the restraints will cause disfigurement. As to be expected the facility is in shoddy condition, the guards are oppressive, and the butch-looking warden is going through her change-in-life.
Joseph makes the best of things by exhibiting a rosy spirit and a mischievous personality. One of his pranks involves tormenting his counselor by hanging himself like a crucifix in the courtyard, using Tootsie Rolls stuck on his hands and feet to simulate the spikes. You just know after that he’s going to melt M&Ms in his hands and make stigmata jokes in the cafeteria. After a series of similar stunts he draws the wrath of the staff but endears himself to the patients. You may wonder why they find him alluring, but try to remember why they are in an asylum.
Fahey wanders around in scrubs looking like he spent the night out with the lighting crew, often resembling Anthony Hopkins’ ventriloquist dummy from “Magic”. His deranged looks and erratic personality manages to draw the attention of Beth, possibly the one patient more troubled than him. She is a diminutive degenerate in possession of freakish strength and also shares Joey’s tendency to exterminate lots of people. She also declares that she is a descendant of the British crown, and given the fact that she is prone to bizarre behavior this may in fact be true, based on the Royal Family’s numerous missteps. This admission could have led to trouble, what with Joe being “The Blueblood Killer”, but these two crazy kids are in love!
Since these two have so much in common Joe understandably falls for Beth, promising not to do anything violent unless she tells him to do so. With her rationale that killing is often more than justified he should not be out of action for too long. The first order of business is for Beth to act squirrelly to distract the staff and allow Joe to escape, but once in the big wide world Joe finds he cannot function without his soulless-mate and he breaks back in to get her. Together they dispatch the warden and her goons and they fling open the gates to let the affected inmates run free across the New Mexico badlands. It is at this time that this sane and competent film turns odd.
On the lam our two lovers steal a truck and end up on a secluded ranch and are greeted by the dungareed land owner. He claims to be a psychic of sorts, stating that he knew these two scamps would be dropping by and welcomes them with open arms. I would guess that he would also be able to divine that they are both homicidal loons and yet he still takes them in, indicating he may be somewhat addled as well and thus making for a cozy and touched triumvirate. They bunk down to a commune existence, which involves tilling the land, having boisterous late-night sex, and dismembering realtors who want to buy the property.
Then we get to the climax when the actual queen of England comes to town and Beth is excited because she can verify her monarchal genealogy. I not too clear why exactly the Queen Mother was compelled to visit a small village in the New Mexico desert, but it serves as a plot device to bring about a head-scratching finale.
Now I am sure there are some who would say that framing a love story around two damaged people with stars, and bloodlust, in their eyes does not make for a warm passion play. But to be honest this was definitely better than having to sit through a Nora Ephron movie. Talk about chills…
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