Sunday, October 21, 2012

AKA Painted Angels: "The Wicked Wicked West" (1998)

This film is hard to sum up because there is really not a plot, per se.

The film follows the lives of prostitutes living in a brothel owned by Brenda Fricker. This is not the brothel of TV westerns, this is a dark, dank place barely lit by candle light in a dingy little ten building frontier town. Kelly McGillis plays Nettie, who helps the other prostitutes through their time at Fricker's establishment, as well as the competition down the street. It is implied she performs abortions for unexpected pregnancies. She tries to raise her five year old son in the house, with less than successful results. Eileen is Irish, and befriends German dancer Katya, who replaces Eileen's best friend, who we see murdered in the opening scene. Georgie is the new young prostitute who knows she can do better that this one horse town, and sets out to prove it. Ada is the prostitute with children who is getting older and less desirable to the men.

The entire cast does a fantastic job. Sanders' direction (he also cowrote this) is very intimate without being exploitative, except for McGillis' topless scene. The film is sad, without being a complete downer, but you get the idea that this is what the prostitutes went through. The pace seems deliberately slow so we get to know the characters. The pace is a little too slow at times, and a few supporting actors blur in confusion here and there, but Sanders keeps things going.

Despite the stupid video and DVD title ("The Wicked Wicked West" is so much worse than "Painted Angels"), and cleavage baring video box, this is not something along the lines of "Bad Girls" or "Hard Bounty." This tells a very realistic story of tough lives gone wrong. If anything, it is hard to forget. (* * * * *) out of five stars.