Monday, July 20, 2009

Confessions of a Go-Go Girl (Nomadic/Lifetime, 2008)

by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2009 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved

This morning I ran a Lifetime TV-movie I’d recorded the night before: Confessions of a Go-Go Girl, the old chestnut about the nice young woman who gets lured into the sex biz and loses almost everything else she found important — her family, her boyfriend, her potential as both a lawyer (the career she was training for when she finished college) and an actress (the one she shifted to when she took a couple of drama classes and got the acting “bug”) — before she finally quits go-go dancing and wins it all back again. There were some potentially interesting themes in Lenore Kletter’s script, based on a play by Jane Morley (since the lead character delivers a monologue about her experiences at the end, were we supposed to take this as autobiographical?) — Our Heroine, Jane McCoy (Chelsea Hobbs), becomes a go-go girl not only to earn the money to work her way through acting school but because it’s a way of taking herself off the ultra-tight leash her parents put her on (they even sent her to Catholic school when they could barely afford it so she would grow up sheltered from the wild side of life); and once she gets into it she finds the sheer power she can wield over men with her body and the instant gratification in the form of tips she gets when she’s having the desired effect on them — but this one gets bobbled in the execution, mainly because Morley and Kletter can’t resist throwing in the most clichéd and ancient scenes in their script.

After she’s carefully concealed her go-go career from them, Chelsea is “outed” when her father (James D. Hopkin), her brother (Graeme Black) and her boyfriend Eric (Travis Milne, a good-looking but rather faceless guy who’s just right for the role, especially in the mix of pleasure and perplexity that crosses his face when the “new” Jane insists on giving him a blow job in the middle of a sidewalk at night) go for the brother’s bachelor party at the new high-class strip club “Tantra” the night Jane is making her debut as a dancer there; or the comeuppance Jane’s friend Angela (Sarah Carter) gets when she goes in for a breast augmentation and ends up dying on the operating table because she was abusing cocaine and it cross-reacted with the anaesthetic. There are some quirky characterizations, including strip-club owner Nick (Corbin Bernsen — and no, the years have not been kind), depicted with a loving avuncularity that goes against everything I’ve ever heard about the sleazepits who actually own strip clubs in the real world; and the dancers’ unofficial den mother, Donna (Rachel Hunter), who works at the club as well as making the other dancers’ costumes and has been able to make enough money to support her 13-year-old daughter Elizabeth (Shae Keebler) all these years — and yes, there’s a hint that Elizabeth is as disgusted with her mom as Jane was about her family, and is going to rebel in the other direction by being very strait-laced and “moral.”

But all the subtleties this story could have developed are lost in a welter of silly clichés by a batch of writers and a director (Grant Harvey) who go for the easy way out of just about every crossroads in their plot and waste some good performances by Hunter, Carter and Tygh Runyan as Kurt, a coke-addicted photographer and Angela’s boyfriend, who claims to be the son of Marlon Brando (and looks enough like him it’s at least faintly believable) and steals $42,000 of Angela’s money and takes off in mid-movie to get back in touch with his inner druggie.