What do you get when you take a movie will all the rich nuance and emotional depth of Tommy Wiseau’s The Room (reviewed here), give it some semblance of a budget, cast actual actors, and set it in New Orleans?
…well, not much.
In 1991’s Zandalee – described as an “erotic thriller” – the titular Zandalee, played by Erika “Hasn’t Worked Since 2000” Anderson, finds herself caught between her husband (Judge Reinhold) and his sleazy artist BFF (Nicolas Cage). Unlisted in the credits is lots of Judge Reinhold’s ass and a cameo from his New Orleans accent. I say cameo because it hilariously never sticks around for long. Zandalee, bored by her stick-in-the-mud husband who used to be artistic and creative, has an affair with wild and intoxicating (and creepy) Nicolas Cage. Torn between passion and morality, tensions rise as their relationships are tested. With a supporting cast featuring the likes of Joey Pants, Marissa Tomei, and Steve Buscemi, this movie doesn’t sound half bad on paper.
And yet, we are left with a movie that is too pretentious for a wide release (it was straight to video) and not sexy enough for Skinemax. Drama is most definitely not Reinhold’s strong suit and I’m left laughing when he tries to show emotion boiling over. Cage is giving a wooden performance even for him, though if you enjoy Crazy Cage he dips into that once or twice. And Zandalee herself is little more than a naked prop bouncing between the two. The script is weak and I feel like everyone knows it and thusly is just phoning it in.
However, I compared it to The Room for a reason. That film is SO BAD that it’s worth watching. While Zandalee is certainly nowhere near as glorious a train wreck as The Room, it is rife with moments of unintentional hilarity. Nic Cage’s hair and soul patch are wonderfully ill-advised, with Reinhold’s creeper ‘stache coming in a close second. Everyone speaks in hilariously overwrought language. Some choice excerpts:
“This tattoo? It’s the black rose of fate. Want one? ::pulls out a sharpie::”
“I wanna shake you naked and eat you alive.”
“It’s pretty hard to hide the clairvoyance of the eyes.”
Ok, I maybe kinda like that last one. Moments like these coupled with bodies unsexily writhing on top of each other and the sheer audacity of when and where the sex takes place only make me laugh when I should be carried away by the characters’ passion. And let me tell you, you haven’t lived until you’ve seen Judge Reinhold and Nicolas Cage join hands and dance angrily with each other. Dear readers, I kid you not.
This movie is absolutely no good in the traditional sense. But its poor choices are made with such self-seriousness that it borders on the absurd. If you like seeing Nicolas Cage’s particular brand of strange, and enjoy laughing at a movie instead of with it, this flick is worth a night of a riffing.
Also, my friend’s dad was Judge Reinhold’s stand-in. So, there’s that.
Other movies I watched this week (potential minor spoilers):
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies – This unusual mashup is played straight and that’s the way to do it. Watching Jane Austen’s refined women speak about social graces as well their mastery of martial arts as they spar both with words and with bladed weapons is a hoot. Yes, a hoot. Throw in zombies that come with some fun special effects and you have an entertaining little oddity. It isn’t great, but it’s ridiculous in its novelty. Fans of the source material will probably enjoy it even more than I did. This movie is pretty straightforward; if you like the title you’ll probably like the movie. If you think it sounds dumb, it probably is.
Million Dollar Baby – A hard-hitting drama about a man with an estranged daughter and a young woman seeking guidance in life finding each other. Also, there is boxing. Emotions run deep in this Clint Eastwood movie. Eastwood himself is a little one note as the grizzled old man but he plays that note well. Hilary Swank and Morgan Freeman shine as they realistically cope with all the hardships the story throws at them. At times I can feel myself being manipulated by the movie but the actors are so good that I willingly go along for the ride.
Stand By Me – Stephen King must have really hated greasers, huh? Four boys travel two days through the woods to see a dead body and each grows up a little along the way. Much credit to the young actors and the director; I never doubt that these kids are indeed these characters. Where some child actors can be ruinous, these four carry the entire film and do it admirably. I’ve heard this move described as a classic. I certainly enjoyed it, but it didn’t hit me in the feels super hard or anything. Perhaps if I had seen it at a different time it would have affected me more. As it stands now, a classic? No. High quality and worth seeing? Definitely.