Just the Facts
Warning: this review gives away the ending.
Me and Will (1999)
Directed and written by Melissa Behr and Sherrie Rose
Starring Melissa Behr and Sherrie Rose
A Melissa Behr and Sherrie Rose joint.
This is not a good movie.
It is a long movie. An unintentionally funny movie. An erratically dramatic movie. A very, very badly edited movie. But it is not a good movie.
Gory Losers? Groinal Lodgings?
Why, if it was so bad, did we watch the whole thing last night?
I'll tell you why. Because the cable movie ratings warned us about how it had AC and GL and so forth, and my roommate was convinced that GL stood for Gay and Lesbian.
To be fair, we had plenty of reasons to think that they might, as I think my roommate put it, "realize that they really loved each other all along and then do it." First of all, it was on Showtime, home of the cornier American version of Queer as Folk and of The L Word.
Secondly, it's a buddy movie about two hot tough femme women riding motorcycles across the country, which is usually Hollywood code for lesbian. They even code one of them as "butch," making her "the tough one" and naming her Will, of all things. Why Will? Because she's butch, I guess. We didn't really get any other explanation. The other one is named Jane, which at first I thought was just a pseudonym she was giving out. Nope. Her name's actually Jane.
Thirdly, the only actual city we see on their road trip is San Francisco, in which they spend a ludicrous amount of time considering that they're going from Los Angeles to Montana. They rave about how they're going to move there. All right, they're saying it because hot men are passing them - and there's a reason they're passing you, ladies - but then they go into a diner with a ridiculously flirty waitress (played by Traci Lords). We are just getting so many mixed messages here.
The Good, the Bad, the Plot, and the Editing
The plot. The plot? The plot....
Well, there was a plot. I remember it; we drove by it several times. Occasionally we even slowed down enough to see what was supposed to be going on.
See, they're in rehab. And they hate rehab. And they like motorcycles. And one of them knows where the motorcycle from Easy Rider is, because her dad's friend owns it.
So of course they break out of rehab, get ahold of some motorcycles of their own, and drive up to Montana to get it. I mean, wouldn't you?
The rehab angle actually provides much of the movie's unintentional humor. I watched it with my roommate, who has two years in Alcoholics Anonymous, and a friend of ours who has a year, along with my own year and a half in various other twelve step programs. As my roommate remarked, it seemed like it was written by someone who had a month sober and said, "Oh wow! I should make a movie about this!"
This inspiration, you see, provided the subplot, which is that... well, it's that Will has a drug problem, basically.
The subplot is supposed to be that Will and Jane make a passionate commitment to each other to stay sober until they find the famous chopper - and then get totally wasted. The movie has a very difficult time sticking to a plot, so this subplot basically turns into "Hey! Addictions sure are tough to shake, huh?" But we do get a lot of accidentally funny moments where one of them, out of nowhere, starts spouting twelve-step slogans, or yelping about "the committee in my head!" or reciting the Serenity Prayer - and then they go right back to their standard "bad girl" personas.
Pacing and Plot Problems
This would be a pretty good plot if it made any sense. I mean, yes, break out of rehab. But how? What are the dangers? Where are the wacky or dramatic chase scenes? How the hell did they get those motorcycles? We don't know; I mean, we're only the viewers. We only planted our butts in those seats for two entire commercial-free hours for this movie. Why should we know what's going on?
I'm not bitter at all.
That's one example of the terrible editing. We repeatedly go from Dramatic Disclosure to Sudden Resolution without much thought. The editing is problematic on another level as well. For example, when they go to San Francisco - inexplicable as that already is - we are treated to at least two separate montages in which they appear to cross the Golden Gate Bridge repeatedly. It's not that they like to ride their bikes across the bridge and pay that stiff $5 toll over and over - it's simple overuse of "Hey! Look! They're in San Francisco! You know 'cause you can see that bridge!"
And that's not even the bridge they would take if they were coming from L.A.
Then there's the amount of time they spend in San Francisco. See? Why would they do this if they weren't setting us up for that all-important lesbian subplot? Damnit. This movie - like the bad hustler movie we saw afterward, and the really terrible softcore porn after that - has a little difficulty with pacing. There are long pauses, slowly delivered dialogue, and a lot of scenes that just show people walking, or sitting, or putting their clothes on.
Possibly the most egregious examples of the movie's rocky pacing are in their relationships with their parents. Quite a way into the movie, with no warning and no previous voiceovers, we are suddenly assaulted by the sound of Jane's voice reading what appear to be cheesy song lyrics. But no: it turns out that she is telling us that Will was sexually abused by her father, and that Will suddenly realizes at this point that she needs to confront him. No sooner do we learn this than Will goes to a pay phone. She calls him, freaks out, hangs up, goes into a bar, does shots, vomits up blood, and they never, ever speak of it again.
The same time and effort are put into the five or ten minute scene with Jane's mother. Her mom is clearly supposed to have obsessive-compulsive disorder; they play it subtle by not telling us this outright, but they are thwarted by the incredibly over-the-top OCD stereotypes. She twitches, she mutters numbers and counts fish sticks under her breath, she washes her hands every five seconds... they're not taking any chances that we might not get it. She's also quite abusive: she screams at her daughter at the drop of a hat, hits Jane's hand when she puts a drink down without a coaster, and manipulates her shamelessly. Jane apologizes meekly and wipes off the coaster (not the counter) with the hem of her shirt. Yet after five or ten minutes of this cavalcade of scenery-chewing, Jane takes her mother's hand and has a Meaningful Moment where All is Made Right Between Them.
Man... those two days of rehab must have been good.
Credit Where Credit's Due
This movie did keep us guessing. It never took the easy solution to a crisis: although the famous chopper was ridiculously easy to get, none of the other plot points were resolved. Will does not confront or reconcile with her father, who we never see. She does not resolve her drug and alcohol abuse problems; in fact, she overdoses at the end and dies. When her boyfriend turns out to have been following her throughout the road trip and she gets back in his car, she doesn't go back with him; he just comes along for the ride. When they stop to fix one of the bikes and a cop hits his wife with a flashlight, throws her out of the truck, and then Will and Jane try to rescue her and he comes back and assaults Will, they just let her get back in his truck. Nobody gets easy answers, least of all the audience.
The movie also gets some credit because it was written by the two leads, Melissa Behr and Sherrie Rose. One review raved about them; apparently they've been unjustly relegated to roles in "exploitation (movies) and cheap TV shows," and wrote and produced this movie on their own. That's pretty impressive, and this movie has great potential. Someday, perhaps, someone will remake it -- or just edit the version that's already out there.
Some interesting viewer comments and more information on the movie can be found at IMDB.