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STATESIDE , USA , 2004 , MPAA Rating : R for language, some sexuality/nudity and underage drinking

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 Connecticut. Kilmerís performance, in which he struts like a rooster on steroids and bellows in self-consciously stentorian tones, accomplishes nothing except to make us ponder what it was we saw in him so many years ago. Not that any of the performances rise much above prep school caliber, as in kids cast not so much for talent as for how much their parents contributed to the alumni fund. The exception is Cook and her wistful fragility. She has poignancy in both her bouts of madness and of sanity, as though she dare not count of either state of mind lasting long enough for her to depend on it. There is also an uncredited cameo by Penny Marshall as a crotchety nurse bored with life at the VA hospital. Canít we make a movie about her character?

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.


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Moviegoer Review
mbolinovskaya (
Well yes, it's true, Mr.Anselmo isn't at his best in "Stateside". But have you seen his first movie "Outfitters"? It's outrageously funny, while still being filled with a similar kind of inanity that permeates "Stateside". His novel "The Cadillac of Six By's is heartbreakingly beautiful. Mr. Anselmo decidely lives in another universe. I would say he doesn't really walk on the earth. He has a unique way of telling a story that belongs only to himself and his heroine.

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