Friday, 15 October 2010

Grandview U.S.A. (1984)

... a dyslexic love letter  to the Born-to-Losers of Anytown USA...

Grandview USA (1984, Randal Kleiser)

Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Patrick Swayze, C. Thomas Howell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, John Cusack, Joan Cusack.

Box Notables: White text on silver background wisely disguises blurb.

Tagline: ‘In the smallest towns lie the greatest dreams.’

Trailers: Target, Better Off Dead, Big Trouble in Little China, Lucas

Cherrypick: “I like to smash cars and I’m damn good at it!”

Giving the urban mythsters enough rope to hang themselves with, oft-rumoured hermaphrodite Jamie Lee Curtis plays speedway owner Mike ‘Mike’ Cody in this dyslexic love letter from the desk of hick Hemingway, Randal ‘The Kaiser’ Kleiser to the Born-to-Losers of Anytown USA.

A junkyard Jezebel and all round slack-Alice, Mike’s accident-waiting-to-happen cheapjack throwback racetrack on the edge of Grandview is the only blight on an otherwise prosperous, picture-book town of the sort that regularly feature in Bodysnatcher remakes, but when she’s given 30 days to renovate it by some pencil-necked Nerdlinger from City Hall, it looks like our hatchet faced hero(ine?) is soon going to have to find new ways to satisfy her craven auto-erotic fixations…
The Wrecking Crew
Across town, Tim Pearson (steely man of action, C. Thomas Howell) is preparing for his Senior Prom by repeatedly attempting to drown himself in the bath in what appears to be a bubbly bid for some unfathomable (honk!) form of sub-aqua sexual gratification. The Prom itself goes South for this lone liquid lothario when, during a particularly idiosyncratic visit to the punch bowl, his cummerbund pings across the room and takes out the Principal’s good eye. Too crestfallen to even attempt to disguise the patch of azure spreading inexorably across the crotch of his (hired) powder blue monkey suit, he trudges from the dancehall to a chorus of ‘People Are Strange’ and eventually winds up in the only arms left open to him – the moshpit of Mike’s Friday night demolition derby crowd.

Star turn at the derby is Patrick Sawyze’s ‘Slam’ Webster. Sporting only a soccer-shocker mullet and the remnants of a lumberjack shirt, Slam is quite possibly the angriest character ever put on celluloid. In his car, Pandemic Pete, he been has putting the ‘immolation’ into ‘demolition derby’ ever since his debut appearance at Mike’s that followed a brief, ill-starred engagement at that other infamous speedway of the damned - Altamont. After his chicken-fried Lolita of a wife cheats on him with “a slick creep who sells washing machines over in Hootersville”, he demolishes his own house with a JCB and locates and beats up a bear before finally falling for Mike’s big-handed charms - renaming his car The 400 Blows along the way.
Love will find a way...
When Mike finds out that Tim’s dad is the Grand Pooh-Bah of the zoning commission bent on closing her down, she sets about getting the lad drunk on a child-friendly moonshine distilled from Gummi-Bears then boning him senseless on the hood of a bumper car. This transparent booty bribe works like a charm as Tim, still high on in his inauguration into Mike’s pansexual ‘Sausage, eggs & bacon’ club (also known as the ‘London Grill’), reveals his dad’s ulterior plans to turn Mike’s death-trap of death into an ultra-generic fun park called ‘ThemeWorld’. Grandview, the ur-cradle of mawkish American values, has been revealed as a rotten, rotten borough.

Slam, meanwhile, has heard about Mike greasing the wheels with Howell and has gone into a rampage so spectacular that it has to take place entirely off camera. What we do know is that the resolution of his seventy-two hours of unreconstructed rage demands a demo derby face-off between Slam and his puny love rival. Unfortunately, still assailed by the baying hounds of unnameable frustration, Slam incautiously bites into his steering wheel with such force that he lodges his teeth in it and has to steer using his mouth. Not even a grade-A lame-o like Tim, in a hopped-up ice-cream van christened Killa Vanilla, can fail to drive him into the floor in this state. He may even do so without recourse to the cynical ‘Robot Wars’-style grabbing claw he has jutting out of his serving-hatch.

It looks like the shit is going to hit the Slam.
Wham-bam slam
The engines are red-lining, the crowd is whipped up into a state that can be best described as concerted ambivalence, Slam’s slobbering all over his knees… and Tim gets out of his van, kneels in the mud and starts bawling. Making John Rambo’s “They drew first blood…” speech sound like a Wildean bon-mot, the self-aggrandising little tit launches into a sophomoric diatribe about peace, harmony and - gulp! – the pioneer spirit before going foetal and soiling himself. Slam has long since fallen asleep with his foot on the accelerator and is at this point nearing the state line. Mike, who for her part has been watching this dour spectacle with a mix of profound unease and green speed coursing through her already higgledy-piggledy Arthur/Martha body, is pouring kerosene over the bleachers. Enough, quite clearly, is enough.

The crowd mills toward the turnstiles.

A brief coda in which Mike And Slam marry to form a cracker ‘It’ couple and Tim goes back to his watery ways and heads for the scuba-diving hotbed of Chicago fails to convince.

Some things you just can’t un-fuck up.

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