Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains Reviews
that it was locked up for a good 30 years and to this day almost nobody has seen it. But if you have an ounce of resentment or rebellion in you, you should. The relentless takedown of mainstream media in the film is far far ahead of its time, as was the in your face punk rock feminism the film enacts.
One last thing. Note that the completely incongruous and confusing ending was tacked on by the studio in a last minute attempt to salvage what they saw as a dangerously threatening film. this pwoer play led the writer of the film to use a pseudonym because she objected to being associated with the studio's corruption of the film's message. ignore the ending.
But, alas, "The Fabulous Stains" is never the parodical minx it clearly sets out to be, failing in its every move besides its invention of Corinne Burns, the haughty heroine of the film whose small-time iconhood suits her well. The movie revolves around the thorny rise to fame of its titular band, a girl group of The Runaways caliber minus the talent. With Diane Lane giving a killer performances as Burns, the frontwoman, some of the depiction is visceral and inspired - but the ineffectual establishment of the story by screenwriter Nancy Dowd makes everything slightly soggy.
Dowd's biggest mistake derives from the way we never really feel the moment in which Burns decides that the rock 'n' roll lifestyle is for her. We know that her mother recently died, that she hates school, and that rebellion is paramount in her existence. We do get a glimpse of her going to a concert and having the time of her life. That, most likely, is what Dowd believes to be her come to Jesus moment. But that quick representation is thin and unpersuasive; there's an overall feeling that Corinne Burns and her friends become rock stars because they can, and that deteriorates the film's attempts to dig in deep.
None of The Stains know how to play their instruments, anyway. They merely ask the manager of a couple of flagging acts stopping by their town if a joint tour is an option. Agreement is made and the road is hit, though it's a rocky one that isn't traveled upon all too successfully. Burns's pissed off 'tude leaves audiences revolted, their music too awful to make an excuse for acerbic behavior. But as time wears on, Burns's loud mouthed messages (and wild attire) begin to appeal to disaffected teenage girls around the country. Backlash, though, is a veritable possibility, considering The Stains's most popular tune bashes 9-5 culture when they're working young women themselves.
But "Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains" is never much more than a great idea, characterizing itself as an unconvincing take on overnight stardom too humorless and too shaky to have much of an impact. I suppose it all is meant to be a stinging response to the idiotic, exhaustible nature of fleeting era definers (one must look in the direction of the Sex Pistols, of Bow Wow Wow, for example). But Dowd's writing is not astute enough to support such lofty ambitions, and the soundtrack is too stale, too riot grrl lite, for toe-tapping or anything resembling our own love of The Stains.
I can see a better film lurking underneath "Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains's" flashy exterior, and its lacking of a punch can only be described as disappointing, especially in the face of Lane's extraordinary performance. But analyzing the frightening characteristics of fame, specifically in the area of music, is not such an easy thing to do. While "The Fabulous Stains" has admirable aspiration, Underdeveloped is its middle name, and it's a shame that potential turns to waste as time passes.
Netflix identified this film as a satire, and throughout most of the film, I tried to figure out what it was satirizing. I guess I can see it as a satire of our culture's gullible embrasure of fads, particularly fads that embrace the darker side of life: I can see bits of Kurt Cobain and the goth/punk movements in Corinne Burns and her followers. But if that was the film's subject, then I think there should have been greater attention paid to the fans and their foolish motivations for remaking themselves in Corinne's image. As it is, the film stays on Corinne and her relationship with Billy and the trials of stardom. But she strikes me as a thoroughly uninteresting character, most of the time acting like a petulant child and a hypocrite, claiming she doesn't "put out" but hopping into bed with Billy despite the lack of chemistry or feeling between them. If she's so willing to sleep her way to stardom, then how can she try to pass herself off as a feminist figure. Diane Lane's performance is solid; the mistake is in the character's construction by the writer and director.
Overall, this is an uninspired film, and the focus of whatever satire is there wanders and is imprecise.
See this movie if you have even a passing interest in the riot grrl thing. I swear that the Stains sound like they're on K records. Chicken or egg anyone?