Trixie (2000) *
Directed and written by Alan Rudolph. Story by Rudolph and John Binder. Photography, Jan Kiesser. Editing, Michael Ruscio. .Production design, Richard Paris and Linda Del Rosario. Music, Mark Isham and Roger Neill. Produced by Robert Altman. Cast: Emily Watson (Trixie Zurbo), Dermot Mulroney (Dex Lang), Nick Nolte (Senator Drummond Avery), Nathan Lane (Kirk Stans), Brittany Murphy (Ruby Pearli), Lesley Ann Warren (Dawn Sloane), and Patton (Red Rafferty). A Sony Pictures Classic release. 117 minutes. R. (language, violence, sex) At the Art
Richard Brinsley Sheridan's play "The Rivals" opened in London in 1775 and introduced the now famous character of Mrs. Malaprop. The most recent, non-fictitious characters in the USA to cause mirth by mangling the English language include Dan Quayle and George W. Bush, but they can't hold a candle (or is it a flashlight?) to the character of Chicagoan Trixie Zurbo, played by London-born Emily Watson of justified fame for her parts in "Breaking the Waves," "Hillary and Jackie " and other recent movies, plus British stage and TV.
She is 33 but looks like a recent teenager. She has no education to speak of, she chews gum incessantly. Her brother was a cop killed in the line of duty, so, perhaps for this reason, she has opted for being a security guard. But soon she goes to work as a plainclothes sleuth in a small casino, where she is on the lookout for thieves and such. She refers to herself as a "private defective." Which brings us to the real uniqueness of Dixie. Her speech is peppered, salted with, and in fact drowning in, malapropisms. In this respect she is the undeniable gold medalist of twisted language, the paramount killer of English, the Lady Executioner of metaphors and figures of speech..
"My sister is expecting a baby, but I don't know if I'll be an uncle or an aunt." "I won't let you drink yourself to Bolivian." "Fish or get off the pot." "He smokes like a fish." "A Parasite for sore eyes." "To grab the bull by the tail." "Do I have an ace up my hole?" "Getting your quarry by hook or ladder." "I wouldn't eat a steak if it came on a ten-foot pole." " "It's time to swallow the bullet." "Even if I am between a hard rock and the deep blue sea." " I want to go back to square zero." And so on ad nauseam and absurdum.
This fractured English, like a germ is caught by other characters who say things like: "If I want your opinion, I'll give it to you." "The sword of Damocles is hanging over Pandora's box." "I make no bones, except this one," "Hypocrisy, not Democracy."
Writer-director Alan Rudolph has been an independent with a maverick style since 1973. His nearly 20 films are a mixed bag, with some among those he was able to write and direct --as opposed to having to hire out to others as a director--having a nice following, notably "Remember my Name" (1978) and "Choose Me," (1984). More recently "Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle" (1994) (about Dorothy Parker and the Algonquin Round Table ) was exceptionally good,. wonderfully acted... and criminally neglected. "Afterglow" (1997) with Julie Christie and Nick Nolte, was quirkily interesting, but never got the public it deserved. The 1999 "Breakfast of Champions" bombed, with good reason.
Rudolph must have made a huge collection of malapropisms, and only then decided to build a plot around them. It centers around Trixie, her new, low-life boyfriend Dex, shady operator Red, underage bimbo Ruby (Dex's ex, with a son by him), overage bimbo Dawn (but Lesley Ann Warren is quite attractive), shady Senator Avery, friendly casino-performer Kirk, and other characters. They are invariably un- or ill-defined.
The plot somehow involves a murder, a mystery, sleuthing, politics and action, all of which make no sense, most of which are impenetrable, and the sum of which results in two painful hours of viewing. There is no single believable character around. Trixie is a dimwit. The crooked, hard-drinking and deep down stupid senator's speeches may interest those who listen to them or read them in the media, because they are an assembly of actual politicos' speeches, with a healthy amount of Newt Gingrich quotes. As TRixie might spell it, it's a "hair-brained" movie all the way.
Rudolph was ever championed by critic Pauline Kael and the protege of director Robert Altman. The latter produced some of the films, including "Trixie" which Rudolph calls ":a screwball noir." But then, just as that hyenas think that their little ones are beautiful, Mr. Rudolph may be alone in thinking that the movie is what he says it is. In reality, it's such a mess. that it qualifies Rudolph as a red-faced film-maker.