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Drowning Mona

Drowning Mona is a deeply bad comedy. It's a look at a small upstate New York community (though filmed in California) of white-trash losers who all become murder suspects when the angry and foul-mouthed Mona Dearly (Bette Midler) drives her Yugo off a cliff (one of the many unfunny conceits of this film is that everyone in the town drives a Yugo). A great cast is gathered together to utter these characters' utterly unfunny lines and engage in dull physical comedy, and director Nick Gomez — whose previous brooding crime dramas, such as Laws of Gravity and Illtown betray no comedic finesse — is helpless in the matter, dully framing the events and letting the actors inhabit parts in wildly different styles. Only Danny DeVito, as town sheriff Wyatt Rash (note the hilarious name), Kathleen Wilhoite, as a lesbian car-tower, and Tracey Walter, as a village idiot in a village of idiots, transcend the limiting material. Midler, in flashbacks, is merely shrill. Neve Campbell is fun to look at (and on the commentary track Gomez goes on and on about her legs), but she has a predictable part. William Fichtner is wasted while cast against type, and Jamie Lee Curtis, as a waitress sleeping with both a father and his stepson, is playing a part she's walked through before. One's special ire is reserved for the dreadful Casey Affleck, who — with a blond wig planted on his head, his lids heavy, his mouth pursed, and his voice a scratchy violin — is incapable of making a passively written character seem more active and interesting. Gomez predicts that he will be a major star, but with his girlish features and passivity, he comes across like the rebirth of Jean Arliss, from William Castle's Homicidal. Visually, Drowning Mona is an ugly film, overlit and filled with garish Americana. But in the end, you don't feel dirty or bored or angry, just sad that so much went into so little. Even sadder is the super-fabulous commentary track, which comes from that Premiere magazine school of Promotion-Industrial Complex fawning. To Gomez, everyone on the set was fabulous, all the crew were great. He also keeps using the same joke over and over ("This is an actress you may have heard of named Neve Campbell who is on a TV show of some kind.... This is an actress you may have heard of named Jamie Lee Curtis who is some kind of Hollywood royalty."). Columbia TriStar's DVD has a solid anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) with pan-and-scan on the flip-side, and audio in DD 5.1. Commentary with Gomez, four deleted scenes with commentary, trailers, cast-and-crew notes. Keep-case.
—D.K. Holm

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