Bed Of Roses (1996)
Director: Michael Goldenberg
Starring: Mary Stuart Masterson, Christian Slater, Pamela Segall
Release date: January 26 (US). Yes! Exactly what I needed to exorcise the demons from 1995’s entry. A Rom-Dram, definitely my preferred genre, I’m on a sure footing here. May contain flowers, lots of flowers and spoilers…
I’ve been saying the hardest reviews are for films such as Obchod Na Korze or Lacombe, Lucien… Pah. Cakewalk City compared to fluff like Bed Of Roses. Romantic dramas have a blueprint for the most part; Bed Of Roses makes like a limpet and sticks to it. The blueprint goes something like this: the charming couple meet, usually by accident, there may be initial awkwardness and there may be a significant other involved. They meet again (on purpose this time), there’s a Musical Montage™ and everything is perfect. Then they fall out during the last quarter and it’s all very sad and there will probably be another montage, normally featuring people gazing longingly from a rain-streaked window (the rain being a metaphor for tears, see). Right at the end they work their problems out and we can all go home feeling radiant.
Lisa (Mary Stuart Masterson) has just closed her first business deal. She’s chuffed but a phone call during the meeting throws her for a loop; someone called Stanley has died. Poor Stan. She goes home, sees that her pet fish is dead as well and bursts into tears. Poor fish. The following day she receives a big bunch of flowers at work. Danny (Josh Brolin) seems to be the likely candidate seeing as she’s in a loose relationship with him (her friend Kim describes Danny as the “romantic equivalent of a night light” – nice one). It’s not him. Lisa digs around and questions the delivery guy, Lewis (Christian Slater). He says he can’t divulge the information, quoting the official Interflora Secrets Act or something. When Lisa catches Lewis looking up at her window in the middle of the night, alarm bells ring. Sadly, he isn’t a psycho. He’s a sensitive young man who lost his wife and baby some time ago. He often wanders the streets looking at the windows, wondering what kinds of lives are being lived behind the glass. Are those lives better than his? On one particular evening he happened to look up and see Lisa in the window, blubbing. So, he decided to send her flowers to put a smile back on her face. Why not, he owns a flower shop after all, it’s his job. Before you know it they’re in love… but she’s got a mysterious past, a past so unimaginably destructive it will (adopt Pinhead’s voice) tear their souls apart…
No she hasn’t. Lewis sends her flowers. A lot. I mean he fills her apartment with roses; she can’t have a piss in peace without sitting on a bunch (probably). Lisa shows up at his shop to tell him to stop, he’s wasting them on the wrong girl. He tells her his sad story and they melt into each other’s arms. Cue Musical Montage™ (the second one of the film) – I think the tune’s called Independent Love Song but I forgot to check the credits, it’s got a chorus though, I’ll give it that. Danny is dispensed with off-screen. Poor Danny. I’m thinking at the very least he might rock up and punch Lewis in the face or tell Lisa that he really loves her, he was just being cool and blokey about it. Stanley, we discover, is a foster parent and he was a bit rough with Lisa. Turns out she’s an orphan, no family, doesn’t even know when her birthday is. When she meets Lewis’s extended family at Christmas it throws her head for a shit. Lewis tries to propose to her but Lisa splits for the most nonsensical, non-dramatic reason I’ve heard in awhile – an unfathomable load of boo-locks I can’t be arsed repeating. This is borne out when, 3 months later she tells her mate, Kim (Pamela Segall); “I can’t stop thinking about him, boo-hoo…” and then needs Kim to tell her to go and see him. Lisa looks amazed, like ‘why didn’t I think of that!’ and says to her; “You always say the right thing.” So she knocks on his door, he tries to look stern and hurt but, hell, wadda you think…
Sometime before all of this Lisa actually says to Kim about Lewis, this is real actual dialogue from the film, “I don’t have any room in my life for someone who’s great.” Goldenberg hang your head in shame, that’s dreadful toss. If you’re writing from experience you have my sympathy. Everyone has room in their life for someone who’s great so get off that one, sunshine. There are points of interest, like an odd whiff of fantasy, particularly Lisa’s first view of Lewis’s flower shop – could be straight out of a fairytale. Then there’s the underused roof garden, a very romantic setting and likely a recurring location. It’s a nice garden, I like it. We see it once, just so they can have a snog in it. Then she runs off and that’s yer lot, roof garden, see yer later. Lisa runs off a lot in this movie. I, too, wanted to run off instead of finishing the film. Bed Of Roses is surprisingly glum and serious; it’s getting me down.
The final third is an exercise in stretching a running time to snapping point. The cracks begin to show in the relationship, but it’s based on a giant nothing. The Big Lisa Mystery – she being an orphan. There is a suggestion during one exchange that Stanley was abusing her but it isn’t played loud. If there was sexual abuse involved and it was present in the writing I could better understand her behaviour. Lisa comes clean at a choice moment in the film in order to create a non-crisis. Realistically, she would surely have responded to Lewis’s own outpouring of pain earlier in the movie; everything out in the open all at once. Anyway, the characters make terribly manufactured decisions to drag the story out. Now knowing her guilty secret and knowing a little of her psychology, that fumbletrumpet Lewis STILL thinks it appropriate to spring a marriage proposal on her in front of his entire family. And it’s obvious to us what’s going to happen because of a previous conversation between Lewis and his sister, she telling him not to push Lisa too hard too fast. Needlessly, during the proposal scene, we get a close-up of his sister worriedly wincing when the ring comes out – just to let us know, as if we didn’t already, that romantic disaster is about to strike. Who can blame Lisa’s initial reaction? Then she completely overreacts and starts blathering all kinds of billycocks at him, all so the film can make its end play. Furthermore, the end play then wastes no time in highlighting the brazen billycocks spoken just moments before (well, I say wastes no time, there’s still time for a third Musical Montage™, surely the sign of a floundering screenplay).
I like watching Masterson work; she’s very good at playing conflicting emotions, whether it be simply with her eyes or in her body language (and I can’t stop thinking about her sweaty, playing the drums at the start of Some Kind Of Wonderful now…) It’s a shame she doesn’t get to play more comedy here because I think she’s a funny girl. She does her best with what she’s got whereas Slater is on auto-pilot; I didn’t believe him in his emotional scenes. But I’m laying the blame on Goldenberg’s script, not with the actors. Both Masterson and Slater are far, far better than this Romanticised Claptrap™.
Following directly on from another Rom-Dram (although there was more ‘Com’ than ‘Dram’ with the ‘Rom’ in Before Sunrise), I can at least gauge the difference in quality. The authentic, if overrated Sunrise grows in my estimation when compared to Bed Of Roses. Unfortunately, I can’t reflect the gulf in class with the score but you should be aware it’s a whopping gulf…
It can have 1 Floral Bouquet out of 5. That ‘1’ is all for Mary.
ThereWolf, May 2012