Goldie Hawn makes a good tramp. Which means The Banger Sisters should work. Goldie co-stars as half a legendary team of rock-star groupies who divided and conquered the music world back in those halcyon days of the 1960s. Jim Morrison is her best-remembered triumph. Frank Zappa himself, myth has it, gave the Banger Sisters their name. Goldie plays Suzette, and she looks like a Suzette. Her hair is blond and stringy, like a golden retriever just out of the rain. Of course, there are those googly Goldie eyes and that happy Goldie mouth. Suzette also has a few anatomically-altered assets, all the better for squeezing into snakeskin jeans and pink halter tops. She's the breathing embodiment of spring break. But her better days are behind her, and looking strung out, she bartends, complains about corporate culture and, eventually, is fired.
Unfortunately, The Law of Light Comedy stipulates that Suzette must now make her way to Phoenix to borrow money from the other Banger Sister, and either: A. Learn a thing about life, B. Teach others the meaning of life, or C. A combination of the two. The other Banger is Vinnie, played by Susan Sarandon. I interviewed Sarandon last week and she described Goldie as “The West Coast version of me,” which is just about as perfect a description as you could hope for; Sarandon and Goldie have a carefree openness that makes them feel like the coolest moms in the history of the world.
Goldie makes it through the film unscarred — she's a steamroller of cute and bubbly. Unfortunately for Sarandon, The Banger Sisters mutes what we love about the actress: her sultriness, her tell-it-like-it-is intelligence. All gone. Vinnie, who is not actually Suzette's sister, has not seen Suzette in decades. She has quit the groupie lifestyle, married well, and reinvented herself as Lavinia, a suburban soccer mom with gardening club, two girls, a big house, and a disturbing number of beige suits.
“I'm the same color as the Department of Motor Vehicles,” she tells Suzette, “and you look like a flower.”
That's a good line. There are a few others and some good gags. Sarandon's real-life daughter, Eva Ammuri, gets the best moments as a shrieking spoiled brat with a weird throat problem. But there's something wrong with a comedy when you keep hoping that the bug-eyed girl who kind of looks like Susan Sarandon will make those throat noises again. Most of the dialogue doesn't snap. It just kind of sighs. The sparks, the bright cheery mood you expect from a comedy with Goldie Hawn and Susan Sarandon, only happen, curiously enough, when the film stops and simply frames them laughing.
You yearn for these moments. Because as soon as they fade, the film settles back into the kind of predictable Hollywood moralizing that has more of a place in a Charles Grodin comedy about a gigantic sheepdog or whatever than a comedy about two former trollops coming to terms with their paths in life. Incidentally, this week's moral: Be yourself — even if yourself happens to be a former rock star fodder with no prospects.
The Banger Sisters is Bob Dolman's first film. I have no idea who this man is, and the film is so generic, it offers no clues. It says in the press notes he was born on Vancouver Island and wrote Far and Away. Good luck to him. He made The Banger Sisters as if he were stifling an anxious giggle the whole time. The effect is that even as tame a moment as Goldie smoking a cigarette comes off as vaguely illicit. Which is too bad, because there's a decent shell of a comedy here, and a great cast, and an R rating. But what we have here is Boogie Nights as reinvented by the script writers of Full House.