Review: ‘Bare’ Took Me There

netflix-coverNetflix and me, we have an understanding. I’m never judged when I need my Jake Ryan fix and end up binge-watching 80’s classics all weekend instead of running errands. And I don’t think twice when indie film suggestions pop up on my video stream feed, based on my viewing history.

Indie and me go way back. Call it underdog kismet, or simply shared affinity for raw truth. I’m attracted to the underbelly of a story. Those dusty secrets that seem to only reveal themselves outside shadows of blockbuster hyperbole. Any “Feel Good Movie of the Summer”, “Gripping” or “Mind Blowing” promises served up on a marquee of bells and whistles, and my interest is a watered down cocktail during happy hour. I’ll enjoy the flavor, but the buzz just aint the same.

It’s been a while since I felt the warm embrace of indie. And like anything good that you haven’t had in a while, we forget just how much we enjoyed whatever it was that’s been missing – like with great sex or home-made lasagna.

After seeing writer/director Latalia Leite’s movie BARE, I realized just how hungry I’ve been.

It’s been twenty years since walking away from the stripper world, but I never tire of the stories. After reading the synopsis of BARE, I was intrigued:

“A young girl [Sara Barton] in Nevada becomes romantically involved with a female drifter who introduces her to a life of stripping, drugs, and metaphysical experiences that teach her what happens when real life catches up with dark fantasy.” – IMDB

Immediately, I wanted more. How young was she? Was she gay before she was a stripper? What kind of drugs did she take? Of course, I personalized the parallels. I was 19 when I stepped on stage for the first time. I slept with women after becoming a stripper. Cocaine and ecstasy were my drugs of choice.

Not only did BARE answer my questions about young Sara’s journey through the stripping world, it did something I wasn’t expecting. It drew me back into mine.

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There I was, tucked safely in bed – my laptop streaming – and bam! – it was 1987. As Sara (played by Glee’s Diana Agron) explored her new world, I was transported back to my old one.

So vividly, was my recollection. I remembered my hesitant but determined first steps on the flashing Plexiglas stage, the vibrating bass crackling through the speakers, my stage name being called as the DJ stretched out the vowels for emphasis: “Ladies and gentlemen, let’s give her a warm welcome! Give it up for the sensational, Stephaaaaaaaanieeeeee”. I could almost smell the cigarette smoke that needed multiple shampoos to get out of my Aqua Net sprayed, Bon Jovi look-alike hair.

I expected to feel a connection after watching BARE, but the intense emotions that flooded through me were a welcomed surprise.

Anyone can tell a story, great writers can make you feel it.

“One thing that I’ve learned, that’s true, is that if you don’t make your own choices in life, the world will make them for you.” – Pepper  (played by Paz de la Huerta)

Natalia’s script is beautifully written and her direction is spot on, bringing out amazing performances (most notably  Dianna Agron (Glee, FoxPaz de la Huerta (Boardwalk Empire, HBO) and Chris Zylka (The Leftovers, HBO). With a subject matter that can easily teeter on campy or trite, BARE’s language is refreshingly honest – never over the top.

In a world where most people throw opinions about sex workers into a pile labeled damaged goods, BARE helps us see things through a different lens. We know Sara. Some of us are her.

Whether you chose a life of g-strings and dollar bills or have been on the fast track in the corporate world since college – BARE’s story of introspection, personal choices and consequence is universal.

As the credits rolled, I took a moment to marinate in the story. My lips curved into a smile. Because of this random indie film choice on Netflix one night – I had come full circle in my journey to the past.

There’s nothing like a great movie to remind you how far you’ve come, help you decide where you want to go, and causes you to simply – think.

Everybody has a story. We are all capable of creating our own reality and looking beyond the horizon. Thanks to Natalia Leite, we know that we are not alone.

To watch the trailer click here:

 

 

BAREPurple Milk Productions – Alexandra Roxo and Natalia Leite

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Christine Macdonald

And, Scene: Crimes and Misdemeanors

“In reality, we rationalize, we deny, or we couldn’t go on living.” ~ Crimes and Misdemeanors

Introspec

 

The first time I saw Crimes and Misdemeanors twenty-five years ago, I was in many ways still a kid. Barely 21, thinking I had all of life’s answers, I was working full-time as a nude stripper in Waikiki.  My proudest accomplishments involved hoards of cash accumulated on my garter and snorting mountains of cocaine behind the plush velvet ropes in various VIP rooms throughout the city.

This is your typical Woody Allen film, full of dry humor wrapped in cynicism, dipped in self-deprecation. A fan since Annie Hall, I knew sinking my teeth into this existential drama would not disappoint. It doesn’t hurt that the cast is a list of my faves, ranging from Martin Landau and Angelica Huston to Jerry Orbach and Alan Alda.

This is a movie that lifts the veil of ethics and morality. We examine the lives of two very different men, Judah Rosenthal and Cliff Stern – which can easily resemble the devil and angel on our shoulder. Their lives intersect one another as they take different approaches to solve serious problems that they initially brought on themselves. Their choices are based on what’s right and wrong, good and bad, and how each of them has rationale behind their decision.

As someone who has always danced on the razor-thin line of both morality and ethics – I could more than relate.  I asked myself the obvious question when lost in the language of Allen’s script.

What would I have done?

Even now all these years later, I find myself referencing this movie when attempting to pick up the pieces of collateral damage from yet another one of my brilliant fuck-ups.

My brain is a trip. I can’t remember what clothes I wore yesterday, but sitting in regret and reflection during my sunset drive home on the Pacific Coast Highway, I remembered every word – and recited out loud – the final monologue of this movie:

“We are all faced throughout our lives with agonizing decisions. Moral choices. Some are on a grand scale. Most of these choices are on lesser points. But! We define ourselves by the choices we have made.

We are in fact the sum total of our choices. Events unfold so unpredictably, so unfairly, human happiness does not seem to have been included, in the design of creation.

It is only we, with our capacity to love, that give meaning to the indifferent universe.

And yet, most human beings seem to have the ability to keep trying, and even to find joy from simple things like their family, their work, and from the hope that future generations might understand more.” ~  Crimes and Misdemeanors

The final scene:

 

“We define ourselves by the choices we have made.” So true, it hurts.

Whether or not I finally get my shit together remains to be seen. But at least I’ve got old movies to keep me company as I continue to try.

 

 

 

 

Christine Macdonald