I’m confidant in saying that there is a large disparity between the worst film on this list, and all of the subsequent films on the list that follow. In fact considering my overall bewilderment for the previous film, I’m elated to announce that this film actually has Lee’s charm all over it, and has redeeming values that are apparent and spirited in the face of an otherwise ineffective script. In short the plot revolves around an aspiring actress who can’t make it past the casting couch, as every time an opportunity comes her way she’s asked to strip naked and trade her dignity in for her body. After refusing to do so and walking out of an audition, her agent and acting coach show no sympathy and drop her from their list of clients. Upon further disappointments and in the midst of desperation, the actress takes her talents to a phone sex hotline, and with nowhere else to turn decides to trade her name in for a number.
In spite of the premise of this film being interesting enough, the delivery and the overall presentation leaves a lot to be desired. Noted to be the first screenplay that Lee didn’t write himself, the film struggles to feel profound in the midst of such an abstract portrayal of an otherwise real and sensitive subject. Perhaps another controversial director named Quentin Tarantino had an influence on the film beyond just a cameo, as the issue of discrimination and sexploitation in Hollywood is seemingly only exploited further here and is not handled delicately at all. Or maybe that’s the point, but if that’s the case what is the point, or perhaps this just isn’t a film deserving of any thorough exploration from the outset. Yet all the same that doesn’t stop a number of powerful performances from resonating on screen, as our leading lady Theresa Randle is exceptional in exemplifying just how clouded your judgement becomes once hopeless and on the brink of surrendering.
As Randle is the only true shining star of this film, most of her supporting cast does pull their weight working with the same uninspired script that makes us wish Lee had decided to be more hands on in the first place. Isaiah Washington is decent as the charming ex lover of Randle who is also desperate, unemployed, and lonely, and in this case the film actually delivers by conflicting the audience into hoping they’d get back together only to wonder if a life with him would be any more desirable. Otherwise there are a few supporting actors that enhance the film (Naomi Campbell, Michael Imperioli) and a few others that fall short of their potential (Madonna, John Turturro), while even Lee’s character as a friend and neighbor to Randle ultimately seems uninspired and incomplete. In comparison to Lee’s other characters that he’s played this role in particular is his least memorable, which is disappointing considering that the inclusion of any genuineness and wholesomeness in our leading lady’s life could have been an interesting thread that the film never pulls.
Nonetheless from the audition walkouts with famed directors Tarantino and Ron Silver, to the auditory sexcapades that are nothing less than theatrical, the film is not without it’s entertaining moments. Randle is at her best in a moment of vulnerability when she gets stood up at Coney Island by a caller “with a nice voice,” and Imperioli is truly frightening as a caller with vulgar fantasies that makes legitimate threats of showing up at her doorstep. There are also dream like sequences (that serve as intermissions, i suppose) in which the cast transforms into a variety of historical black characters such as Foxy Brown and The Jeffersons; a message that is ultimately lost upon me unless Lee is illustrating the parallels of sexploitation and blaxploitation all at once, in which case he may be onto something, (maybe). Otherwise the film’s signature moment has to be the semi-climactic scene of Randle and Washington’s kiss in the street, a kiss that highly poetic as rainbow colored telephones fall from the sky like raindrops, a beautiful sight even if I’m still trying to understand it.