At one point in STATESIDE, Dori, played by Rachel Leigh Cook, asks Mark, played by Jonathan Tucker), and Iím quoting here, whether or not two people who sort of suck can marry each other. Legally, of course, there is no law against it. As for the philosophical implications, I reserve judgment, there being so many different varieties of ďsort of suckĒ that the state of being like that does not necessarily preclude connubial bliss. I donít, however, reserve judgment on hether it works as the premise for this movie. That would be a resounding and unequivocal no.
The question itself serves as a bellweather for the entire film. Full of faux profundity, it, like the rest of the film, fails to deliver a thoughtful, meaningful, or even coherent insight on the human condition. It is a blind-spot born of the delusion that non-sequitors can take the place of a point of view, much less a philosophical premise.
Dori is a rock star and actress with problems that go far beyond mere personality quirks and eccentricities. When she tells a concert audience that the stuff that makes the Jello© jiggle is talking to her, it comes as no great surprise to find out that she is clinically schizophrenic. As for Mark, heís a rich kid with a recently deceased mother, a father (Joe Mantegna) attached to a mobile oxygen tank, and a sister who hasnít taken off Momís mink since the funeral. After a particularly bad day at his elite Catholic prep school, which includes a run-in with the priest (Ed Begley, Jr.) in charge and the uncomfortable, and unwilling, sharing of some pornographic fantasies, he decides to blow off some steam in a nifty red sports car, two buddies and a case of beer. The result is a stint in the Marines rather than jail time for cracking the priests spine and putting a girl classmate in the hospital after the inevitable car crash.
Now the tale of a loner who doesnít fit in and a hyper-kinetic schizophrenic has possibilities. I call your attention to BENNY AND JOON. STATESIDE does not come close to that film's sublime sense of romantic heroism. Instead, we are treated to a build-up to Dori and Markís first meeting that takes up too much time while giving us way too little. Before things can get going with the romance, we spend an oddly dull stretch at boot camp with Mark. There he is plagued by a master drill sergeant played by Val Kilmer, who has been all but ordered to make the rich kid drop out of the Corps. Hence Mark hanging upside down in closet, being stuffed into a garbage can, and being taunted for hailing from
The vacuous dialogue, which thinks itís oh so clever, is dotted with such gems as ďDo you know whatís under me?Ē with the reply, ďVelour.Ē There is, of course, no velour on screen and, trust me, what little context there is doesnít help. And then thereís the pacing and the plot development. Writer/director Reverge Anselmo has manifested on screen what must be going on in the schizophrenic Doriís brain, a disjointed scattershot approach that lands with a dull thud rather than creative fireworks. As for why the vicious master drill sergeant suddenly becomes all warm and fuzzy with his platoon, all but puddling up when talking about his chubby two-year-old, I have no clue and think that speaks well of me.
STATESIDE declares that is based on a true story, which explains why it is set in the 1980s. Nothing else does. And nothing quite explains what this film is supposed to be. Itís not funny, itís not offbeat, and it never connects enough emotionally to give it any kind of a dramatic sweep. Itís a time-waster disguised as a conundrum.