31 December 2009 | rooprect
Textbook Cult Classic. Please don't make it famous!
In the documentary "The Making of Ladies and Gentlemen the Fabulous Stains" (which you can find on YouTube), the narrator mentions that 83 million Americans have seen Star Wars: The Phantom Menace; then he adds he's not sure if a total of 83 people have seen The Fabulous Stains.
This is the quintessential cult classic. Like the original Jerky Boys tape (remember that?) it has been copied & re-copied and passed around from one VHS to another for the last 20 years. In interviews, even the stars of the film say they haven't seen the finished product. So if nothing else, you should feel special for having the opportunity to watch it.
I'm part of the nu-crowd, having found this movie at a Blockbuster going out of business sale last week and buying the recently-released DVD for $3. I can see instantly how it became a cult classic. First, it features a cast of respected musicians (Sex Pistols, The Tubes, The Clash) as well as a very young Laura Dern (Jurassic Park, Wild at Heart) and a lead actress whom I'm shocked I haven't seen in any other films because she's fabulous: Diane Lane.
Next we have a story about the underground music scene and a girl band's rise to stardom which predicted the whole Madonna craze 2 years before Madonna's debut album (as well as the Go-Gos and even Joan Jett). I think that's what makes this a great film--how prophetically accurate it was. The "old rockers" of the 70s (with outrageous makeup on their faces) were clearing the way for badass chicks with attitude (and outrageous makeup on their eyes). As Diane eulogizes in the film "He was an old man in a young girl's world." That theme is something you have to keep in mind while watching this. At the time, aside from maybe Janis Joplin, rock music didn't have a great history of bad girls, but audiences were demanding it. So not only does this film highlight the evolution of music, but it also foretells a new age of feminism in the industry.
For me, what made the film really enjoyable was its realism. Touring with a rock band isn't all Ritz-Carlton and Leer jets, unless you're the Rolling Stones. No, touring with a rock band is dirty, smelly, cramped on a malfunctioning tour bus with shady promoters, managers and rival bands with a lot of catty attitudes. I can't think of any other film that tells it like it is.
The biggest flaw of this film is the ending. I won't ruin it, but I'll just say it was NOT the ending intended by the original writer Nancy Dowd (as the rumors go, Nancy was so angry at the reworked ending that she took her name off the credits). Indeed, the ending seems a bit incongruous. But at the same time it makes sense on certain levels, so maybe it turned out for the best.
Another problem is the way the film shows 15-year-old girls in a very sexual way. Sure, that's realism (as Fee Waybill says in the documentary, 'There was more sex & drugs going on behind the scenes than there was in the movie'), but it might--and should--make you feel a little uncomfortable watching a 15-year-old girl have sex. But hey, I guess that's one of the reasons why this was never the ABC movie of the week, and instead it was quickly buried for 20 years.
So yeah, if you have a chance I think you should watch it. If nothing else, it's a great nostalgic trip back to the music scene of the 80s. But it's also very poignant in today's world. Diane's "meh" attitude toward life is exactly what confronts a lot of teens today in this increasingly cynical world.
I'm happy that this film managed to get released on DVD, otherwise I never would've seen it. I just hope it doesn't get too popular, because that would kill some of its charm. I like the idea that there are only 82 other people who have seen it.