USA, 1999. Rated R. 117 minutes.

Cast: Emily Watson, Dermot Mulroney, Nick Nolte, Nathan Lane, Brittany Murphy, Lesley Ann Warren, Will Patton
Writers: Alan Rudolph from a story by himself and John Binder

Cinematographer: Jan Kiesser

Music: Mark Isham, Roger Neill

Producer: Robert Altman

Director: Alan Rudolph


Grade: D- Review by Jeff Vorndam

"A–the website that hates Alan Rudolph." Just testing out a new byline. That's not exactly fair, though. I don't hate Mr. Rudolph personally, but Trixie was torturous to sit through, and if Dana is correct (and no doubt she is) Breakfast of Champions was even worse. Have you ever sat next to obnoxious people on the bus or the subway and heard them smacking their gum in your ear? Have you ever met someone at a party who thinks he's the next Henny Youngman? Or have you ever overheard your neighbor's music playing late at night, not loudly, but just loud enough to make you want to cut off your ears? These all approximate what it was like for me to see Trixie, a self-consciously fluffy bit of "wacky entertainment."

The gimmick in Trixie is the peculiar way each of the characters talk. No one in the film speaks like a regular human being. As Trixie, Emily Watson defaces almost every sentence with a malapropism (the funniest of which is "I have an ace up my hole"). Maybe a tendency to mix metaphors once or twice during a conversation would be humorous, but to do it constantly is mindnumblingly annoying. It's one lame joke after another every time Trixie opens her mouth, and unfortunately she does a lot of talking.

Trixie is an undercover security guard. She watches for shoplifters and alerts the personnel when she spots one She is assigned to a casino in a small town (small town=ground zero for eccentric nutballs). While on the job, she meets an eccentric nutball named Kirk Stans (Nathan Lane), who is the casino's lounge singer. Kirk speaks like the voice-over in a Grade Z film noir, and peppers his dialogue with impressions of celebrities to noxious effect. Kirk warns Trixie about local bad boy Dex Lang (Dermot Mulroney), who immediately begins hitting on Trixie. Dex's distinguishing character traits are his stupidity and his ability to absorb a lot of physical punishment. Trixie feigns disinterest, but since these two are the heroes of our story, we know they'll get together in an outrageously hilarious sex scene at some point. (And they do, except substitute "hilarious" with "clumsy in seeking laughs from well-mined territory.") What is Trixie's distinguishing character trait? She chews a lot of gum, but I guess that's more of a distraction than a character trait. I would say Rudolph wants us to admire her determination in the face of scorn, but his script scorns her at every turn.

A lame detective story develops as Trixie investigates the disappearance of singer Dawn Slotnick (a haggard and shrill Lesley Ann Warren who thrusts her cleavage out like a sack of yams). The suspects include rich a-hole Red Rafferty (Will Patton out-enunciating William Shatner), and a corrupt Senator named Avery (Nick Nolte, in his element, spitting and swaggering). Trixie is "helped" by ingenue Ruby Perli (Brittany Murphy, redoing her ditz from Clueless) and stalwart Dex. Her investigation is one bungle after another, and it's no wonder since Rudolph keeps us in the dark the whole time. It's madcap fun for the entire family, but only if you've never seen a movie before and are easily amused by flickering lights. All of the characters speak in some garbled anti-language that left half the audience howling with laughter and the other half (myself included) sitting in stony-faced silence (my stoicism occasionally belied by a grimace). Senator Avery's dialogue is reputedly comprised entirely of slogans that politicians have actually said, which heightens his incoherence. This doesn't prevent Rudolph from raiding the well of SNL's Jack Handey for a joke about clowns.

Trixie is a film that knows it's silly, though, and I would be heartless to grade it an 'F' since it's not meretricious enough. As unpleasant as the film is, there is some nice stunt work done by Mulroney, who gets clobbered quite a bit, and Nathan Lane lets loose one or two zingers worth remembering. Other than that, it's rough going. Because the film is laughing at it's characters, not with them, it's impossible to feel any exultation over the resolution. For example, if Erin Brockovich ridiculed its protagonist at every turn, and she succeeded only because the script was even meaner to her opposition, what kind of accomplishment would that have been? Though the film earns an 'R' for its violent and sexual content, I wish the MPAA had shown some mercy and slapped the somewhat more restrictive NC-117 rating on Trixie. No one should have to see this.

Review © April 2000 by AboutFilm.Com and the author.
Images © 1999 Sony Pictures Classics. All Rights Reserved.

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