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Lover Girl Movie Review

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I didn't know what to make of this odd little indie, which I picked up on an impulse from a video shelf, but it's been lingering in my mind ever since. Jake (extremely well played by Tara Subkoff) is a little homeless girl who tries to move in with her mean older sister, Darlene (Kristy Swanson). Darlene won't let Jake crash with her, not even for one night, so Jake wanders around and then drifts back to Darlene's vicinity. Marti (Sandra Bernhard) lives down the passage from Darlene, so Jake begs to stay with her. After some grumbling, Marti says O.K., for one night. It turns out that Marti works in a massage parlor where most of the male clients don't even expect her to have sex with them, they just play with themselves while she dances around. That sounds easy, Jake thinks, so she asks if she can stay with Marti and pay her own way by being a masseuse, too. No, she's underage, absolutely no and definitely no. So Jake does it anyway when none of the other masseuses are around. Well, she doesn't actually do it, she just hangs out with a young male client who seems as inexperienced as she is and who pays her almost $200. Marti and the other masseuses figure they can make some extra money as long as the madame/manager doesn't find out. Since Jake is so young, the job does get to her after a while. She doesn't want to do ANYTHING with the clients. “Who does?” shrugs Coco, another masseuse (Loretta Devine). Then Darlene wants in on the action—she wants to be a sister act with Jake, actually, which Jake doesn't dig at all. She's becoming so morose that she doesn't even care when Darlene blows the whistle on Jake's part-time job. Nor, it seems, do the other masseuses, who quit en masse, except for mean Darlene. Jake drifts away, only to be rescued once again by Marti, whose maternal impulses seem to have kicked into gear somehow. Or have they? That's why Lover Girl lingers in my mind. Lisa Addario and Joe Syracuse's view of prostitution is so non-judgmental and so free of eroticism and so sympathetic to the women who toil as sex industry workers that I had to wonder after a while what they were saying in Lover Girl. No matter how cordial or kind the female masseuses are to Jake, she is a child and being with male clients is hurting her. After such a mercenary start with Marti, could they really adjust to a surrogate mom/kid relationship? This troubling picture asks more questions than it ever tries to answer, but the acting is very good (Bernhard is exceptional as Marti and Renee Fun Humphrey is also around as Teddy) and the absence of Sunday school morality made the story seem heartbreakingly real. Allison Anders was executive producer. The soundtrack includes songs by Cibo Matto ("Sugar Water,” “Aquas De Marco"), Bellatone, Land of the Loops, Team Dresch, Containe, Surf Maggots, Go Sailor and the Murmurs.

1997 (R) 87m/C Tara Subkoff, Sandra Bernhard, Kristy Swanson, Loretta Devine, Renee Humphrey, Susan Barnes, Sahara Lotti, Tim Griffin; D: Lisa Addario, Joe Syracuse; W: Lisa Addario, Joe Syracuse; C: Dean Lent; M: Mark Kilian. VHS

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