DVD Review - Sweet Lorraine

Tatum O'Neal in 'Sweet Lorraine'
Oscar-winner Tatum O'Neal stars as Lorraine Beebie, the wife of a Methodist minister. Despite being married to a good man, she is not herself good. She apparently has a shady past. She lives in New Jersey but she occasionally travels across the bridge to New York to connect to her more trashy life, which includes bizarre lounge performers and back-room boxing rings where Lorraine fights drag queens.

Scott William Winters (Oz) plays Mayor Michael Ward, the guy running the New Jersey town where Lorraine now lives. He's also a closeted drag queen who frequents the lounge in New York where Lorraine hangs out. He's not gay. He simply cross-dresses for some other unexplained reason. He is apparently in love with Lorraine and had some kind of relationship with her but now that's over.

Lorraine and Michael come to a head because Lorraine's husband, Reverend Freeman Beebie, played by Matthew Conlon, decides to be the running mate of Lou Bava, played by Steven Bauer, a sexy Cuban actor who some might remember from Scarface (1983). Lou is running to replace Michael as mayor of their New Jersey town. Lorraine hires the bartender and/or manager of the seedy, New York lounge, Marcus, played by Peter Greene, to be a kind of campaign manager for Lou and Freeman. This starts a bit of a political battle.

O'Neal's performance falls in line with a tradition of icy blondes, or cynical and misanthropic women re-popularized recently by Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl (2014). Lorraine isn't as murdering but Lorraine is revealed to certainly be as manipulative, and it might not be so much hyperbole to say that she could believably go toe-to-toe with Mike Tyson. Obviously, the title of this movie is an ironic reference. Her only sweetness comes when she's getting a back massage.

Writer-director Chris Frieri opens the movie with what looks like stock footage of New Jersey from the 1970's or 80's, as we're rolling through it by car, possibly on the turnpike. Yet, the look of that opening is the consistent look of the entire film. Clearly, Frieri wants to invoke the feelings of that time and the sensibilities, though I'm not sure if that's the time period he wants to set this movie. His characters could be stuck in a time warp, if the production design is any indication, but certain technology like cars are anachronistic otherwise.

The movie at times feels like a seemingly slapdash patchwork. Jimmie Walker (Good Times) is in the movie randomly, almost as a cameo, again as a nod to the 70's and 80's. Other characters and scenes though feel thrown-in at random with no solid connective tissue or enough to chart character arcs. The relationship between Lorraine and Michael is not made clear or is as developed as I would have liked. Neither is that between Lorraine and Freeman or Lorraine and any one else, including her children. It's all surface, interesting in its presentation but not given nearly its proper due.

Three Stars out of Five.
Not Rated but for mature audiences.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 27 mins.


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