Directed by: Taylor Hackford Cast: Helen Mirren, Joe Pesci, Sergio Peris-Mencheta Running Time: 1 hr 50 mins Rating: R Release Date: June 30, 2010
PLOT: During a time when Nevada brothels were fighting to remain legal, a woman (Mirren) running the “Love Ranch” has an affair with the boxer (Peris-Mencheta) being promoted by her co-owner husband (Pesci).
WHO'S IT FOR?: Fans of Helen Mirren. This movie is not for those who like to receive an education on an unusual real-world story through the biopic movie style.
EXPECTATIONS: I had seen a trailer two weeks previous when I visited my local art house. From the preview, I wondered how Love Ranch would present prostitution, and just how informative it would be on the legality of the era. I expected something that resembled a biopic about people I wouldn't have heard of in any way.
Helen Mirren as Gracie Bontempo: Her character hates being called a "pimp," but Mirren is in control of this movie. Her stoic performance as the woman caught between two men and their scandalous business holds everything together from completely falling apart. Rough around the edges but with a soft spot in the center, Mirren is surprising in this role one might consider out of her range - until they remember her proven ability. Score: 6
Joe Pesci as Charlie Botempo: The former wise guy stands in the shoes of a man who may or may not be fictional, and forces those boots to become Pesci sized. He’s a tough little man who barks the “F” bomb as if it were the first word he ever spoke, and here he plays another selfish a**hole. With this highly unsurprising performance, this version of his own archetype is in a dysfunctional relationship with a woman who at their rate of differences should have abandoned him twenty years ago. And whether the original man swore this much or not, it makes no difference. Pesci soils this character as he sees fit. Score: 3
Sergio Peris-Mencheta as Armando Bruza: The muscular, long-haired boxer makes for a cheesy love interest, and any authenticity is hard to find in either his dialogue or his light-hearted presence. This teddy bear tends to be very cheesy, but his only genuine soulful attribute, his smile, can make him seem a little charming in a couple of occasions. Score: 4
TALKING: It must be in Pesci’s contract to f**kin’ sprinkle the script with all of these f**kin’ four letter words. The f**kin' dialogue in between all of the f**ks hardly matters – you’ll only f**kin' remember Pesci and others as they give the movie some “edge” with a redundant use of “f**k.” Score: 3
SIGHTS: In a movie that takes place in a brothel, the only person who gets a sex scene is Helen Mirren, whose body is awkwardly pimped out by her director husband, Taylor Hackford. If you came to Love Ranch hoping to see some action, prepare for a cocktail of Helen Mirren Nipslip. You certainly won't get any decent action from a stale-handled boxing match that occurs in the second act. Score: 4
SOUNDS: A typical list of classic 70’s music is utilized, from Jackson Browne to Aretha Franklin. “Hold On, I’m Coming” blares during the credits, a song that is too convenient a reference to the ending’s final words. During the story, a nuisance of a Spanish-guitar driven score steps over the boundaries of supporting the “aesthetics” of this movie, and become distracting. Almost every scene seems to be driven by music which is also in itself not very special. Score: 2
BEST SCENE: No scene jumps out. It certainly wasn’t that boxing match, that’s for sure.
ENDING: Someone is shot, and the legislation for the Love Ranch passes, apparently.
QUESTIONS: The beginning says "Based On A True Story ..." But, according to Wikipedia, Armando Bruza doesn't even exist. Plus, the "Love Ranch" doesn't seem to exist either, unless we're talking about my second home, "The Bunny Ranch." What the heck is going on here?
REWATCHABILITY: With an exception of those who want to look at the specific bodies at work in Love Ranch, any human being who sees this will not find much that is worth a second glance.
Prostitution has always been a compelling stimulant to our economy. Who partakes in giving? Who receives? How much money does it make? Are the employers really “whores,” or are they deserving of more credible definitions? The selling of sex, and the legalization of that very business, is very interesting. Unfortunately, this movie that contains these various questions, but skips around them like a bad lap dance, does not.
A film as scandalous as Love Ranch has the opportunity to stand out from the biopic crowd with its bold sexual politics, and to also discuss such politics to a depth that makes even the most conservative viewers consider the moralities of paying for a fellatio. The movie does not opt for this more involving angle, but instead focuses on a romance that is non-believable up until a semi-schmaltzy poem is written. The climax is capped off with a cliché coda that one can see coming once an audience member considers who is playing “the bad guy” (that’d be f**kin’ Joe Pesci).
Love Ranch is a movie that contains the business of sex, but lacks any mojo. The film even features a subplot that touches on a boxer's legacy, and it still can't pack an interesting punch.
FINAL SCORE: 4/10