QFEST 2011 Review: FISHNET
Written and directed by first-time feature filmmaker Brian Pelletier, FISHNET tells the story of Sulie and Trixie, a lesbian couple from Los Angeles working as dancers in a burlesque club. A tough, full-figured woman named Lady Jeanette, played by Emma Messenger, runs the club. Everything is going just fine, until a mobster shows up trying to muscle Lady Jeanette. In an impulsive effort to save the day, Trixie shoots the mobster and the two young women flee for safety to Sulie’s parents’ house in Texas.
Jillian Easton (VIRUS X, MEGA PIRANHA) plays Sulie, a woman from a conservative rural Texas upbrining, drawn to L.A. where she first met her creative passion and her romantic love. Rebekah Kochan (HOMEWRECKER, EATING OUT Series) plays Trixie, a wild, fun-loving L.A. woman and Sulie’s romantic partner. These two actresses offer the better moments in FISHNET, comfortable delivering the lines in a way that lifts the words just enough out of absurdity to be fun.
Many of the characters are ridiculous to a fault, possibly by design. Olga, played by Zabeth Russell, is a plump Russian burlesque dancer with an entirely different and undesirable interpretation of what her audience considers sexy. Annie the bartender, the two mobsters, Officer Dick, and even Sulie’s little brother Junior are all exaggerations by design. The filmmaker is poking fun at the various ways we see each other in real life, especially the ultra-conservative Christian right, but comedic license is also taken with just about every other perspective as well.
A great deal of attention is placed on Sulie’s relationship with her family, and how the secrets she and Trixie are keeping from them affect her decisions. Sulie is torn between the life she had and the life she hopes to have, blurred by the dangerous pickle that Trixie has put them in with both the law and the mafia. The story itself is one that’s been told many times, a story of a character waking up to their own truth, which occurs not just with Sulie but with other supporting characters as well. This awakening of self is an underlying theme in FISHNET, clouded by comedy.
FISHNET is a film billed as a comedy/musical. Upon seeing the film, I clearly got that the attempt was to be funny. At times, the humor poked through, but the overall result proved otherwise. The film gets bogged down in clichés, bad jokes and poorly executed comedic acting. Stereotypes run rampant in FISHNET, and whether are intentional or not, they simply don’t work. The silly nature of the firth two acts contrast directly with the third, which attempts to salvage a meaningful, heart-felt ending. After spending the first two-thirds of the film wading through cheesy dialogue, its difficult to take the outcome seriously.
In an effort to be fair and honest, I truly don’t believe FISHNET was meant to be taken seriously. The overwhelming impression I had was that this is a film meant to have fun with, even meant to be made fun of… I can see FISHNET developing a cult following, something along the “so bad its good” lines of Tommy Wiseau’s THE ROOM or TROLL 2, combined with an element of ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW. For this expectation, an audience may just eat FISHNET up. Only time will tell. However, my reaction to seeing this film billed as a musical comedy is that this is not a musical. Aside from the opening credits sequence, the film is merely built around a style of musical theatre, that being burlesque, but lacks the trademark choreography and musical outbursts necessary for the genre billing.