Rough Magic

Rough Magic written and directed by Clare Peploe has got to be a contender for worst movie of the year.
It’s a real stinker. The worst thing
about it is its preposterous plot, full of what is obviously meant to look like
bits of “magic
realism” but coming across instead as
a sort of cartoon with a talking dog and a man turned into a sausage. Even in a
crowded field of impossible and merely fanciful stories, this stands out. But in
addition, Ms Peploe has also managed to write some of the lamest dialogue ever
to appear on the silver screen since the late Ed Wood laid down his pen. Here,
for example, is an instance of what she obviously thinks of as witty repartee
between a handsome young man called Alex Ross (Russell Crowe), living in
dissolute life in Mexico, and an attractive gringa called Myra (Bridget Fonda),
well-dressed and driving a new Buick, whom
he’s trying to get to know better.

“If I
couldn’t smell tamales
I’d swear
I’d died and gone to
heaven,” says fresh Alex.

“Lie down under the back wheels,
and I’ll see what I can do to get you
there,” says saucy Myra.

Obviously, the two are destined for each other, as we see again not long
afterwards when she breathes fire in the face of a bully and singes his hair
off. “For a sweet little girl, you
sure play rough,” says Ross.

“I can also play nice; depends on
whose fingers are playing the

The film, set in 1952-53, is shot through with such examples of sparkling
repartee, but, bad as that is, it is not as bad as its political agenda, whose
silliness stands out even among the many examples of Hollywood silliness. Myra
is on the run from a brutish and corrupt U.S. Senator (D.W. Moffett) who wants
(gasp!) to marry her and shower her with material possessions. She, needless to
say, is not having any of that. The Senator is obscurely associated with Richard
Nixon and his family’s fortune comes
from uranium. He even worships in what he calls
“a church of atomic
science.” Myra, by contrast, is a
magician and worships an Indian earth goddess and shaman who chants to her
sister the moon about how “the earth
is bleeding” and
“men are killing
it.” The shaman also brews her up a
potent elixir that makes the wilder sorts of magic happen.

Will she marry the Senator or the hard-drinking Ross, a seedy drop-out and
ex-marine who went to Mexico because
“something spooked him — something
about taking pictures of the Nips after the
bomb” ? See if you can guess. Does she
become a true adept of the primitive magic and nature religion or is she sucked
back into the soulless consumerism of 1950s America? Take a wild stab. And I
wonder if you can tell which of these characters turns out in the end, much to
the others’ amusement, to be gay? But
don’t think
there’s not a surprise or two in
store. For the final shot, after the happy couple have disappeared into their
honeymoon suite, is one of truly stunning tastelessness: two rabbits

Well, you expected maybe Hitchcock?

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