Saturday, 8 April 2017

Retro Review: Whore (1991)

Whore
1991
Cast: Theresa Russell, Deborah Dalton, Benjamin Mouton, Antonio Fargas, Danny Trejo
Genre: Drama
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $1 million

Plot: The life of a jaded prostitute on the streets of Los Angeles is described in this haunting drama told in flashbacks of her past marriage, brutal, inhumane abuse & her time on the streets






'Bleaker, Often More Realistic Version of Pretty Woman, Whore Is Gritty Woman'

An adaptation of a British play by writer, David Hines titled: Bondage, Whore is reported to be Ken Russell's response to Pretty Woman's glorification of prostitution, that being rich and wealthy you can buy someone's love (as if) and its validation of something that through its unrealistic and fantasy fairy tale like context, being a prostitute is no more as innocent as having a princess being swept off their feet by their prince charming. 

On the other hand, Whore seeks to destroy that notion, completely. 

I don't care for and have never cared for Pretty Woman: I know I am in the minority by saying it is and was the most overrated film of the 1990s, standing toe-to-toe with James Cameron's, Titanic. I didn't really care for the pairing of Julia Roberts and Richard Gere. I just didn't buy into all that self-fulfilling, pretentious yet shallow Hollywood-esque nonsense that Garry Marshall and the writer was trying to shove down my throat. 

In sitting through Whore, Ken Russell has served up an alternative slice of prostitution that is so unlike the 1990 romantic comedy, with candid, sincere and raw vignettes that delve deeper into the ugly realms and in presenting to the viewer with an authentic and true to life look at the subject. The core truths of being a prostitute are hard -hitting, grittier with a satirical slant, along with striking visuals that pack a punch. Russell takes the British take on life as a prostitute and transfers it, Stateside to America. There is a scene where a young driver pulls over his car, Liz gets inside, only to find herself being raped by the other passenger and is then thrown out of the car. Not a pretty image to see. 

There is also a comical, light-hearted tone with moments of unintentional humour. I don't know if Ken Russell was taking the Mick out of Pretty Woman, but there were scenes that were sort of amusing. Like when she is giving a blowjob to an old guy in the car, whilst he is driving. There is a nod or be it reference to Pretty Woman when the male and female characters dine at an expensive restaurant. Whore is a dark satire on Pretty Woman. The rich guy pimp character is the antithesis of Richard Gere's protagonist, Edward in that film; rather than a sweet guy, he is portrayed as a snake, who enjoys using prostitutes and taking advantage of them to get what they want. 

Theresa Russell gives a great performance as the hooker, Liz, who lets the viewer into this personal life that is the opposite of Garry Marshall's offering. Through monologues, her character reveals all, candidly upfront as she diverges into the different John's and clients she meets along the way and her experiences with each of them. Her sarcastic delivery masks the small nuggets of heartbreak and sadness, as these women make a living by going down this route by selling their bodies for money, drugs. Even ending up in jail. And in doing so, they endure daily routines of bullying, assault, manipulation, humiliation and fear. But for some of the cliches and dialogue that was a tad dull to sit through, Whore manages to be direct, raw and realistic. 

That low- budget, pseudo-commentary approach suits the theme of this movie and in evoking its seedy and sordid tone, yet it's not too overly dark that is on the verge of depressing. 






Final Verdict: 

Anyone who thinks that prostitution is a glamorous, high-end occupation that any woman or man should ever find themselves in, should watch Whore and Patti Jenkins Monster. 

With some occasional laughs, Whore is otherwise a harsher look at being a hooker that appears to be more realistic than the sugary, care-free PG-13 version one in Pretty Woman. And by PG-13 I'm not referring to the film rating itself. 

The late Ken Russell who did the fantastic Crimes of Passion manages to ram through his message, very loud and clear by being Frank and sensitive also, without resorting to shock tactics and imagery. Though I expected him to go a little more extreme and be a bit more cagey, shocking and in- yer-face in his approach, ala Paul Verhoeven-style with this subject matter, Whore is still watchable. 

If you're after a more realistic film and a grim take on prostitution, then Whore is that film, and slightly more.  

Pretty Woman's Vivian may be the hooker with a heart of gold, but Whore's Liz is one with plenty more smarts and muscle. 



Overall: 


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