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Movie Crash Course: L’Age D’Or

After Un Chien Andalou, this the second collaboration between Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali. This time, however, Dali contributed a little less to the party and let Bunuel go his own way a bit; there’s a tiny bit more of a plot (……sort of), and fortunately no ones eyes are harmed in the making of this film.

It’s still kinda weird, though.

Things actually start off with a brief nature documentary about scorpions; we see plenty of footage of scorpions sort of scorping along and doing their thing, set to sprightly orchestral music and interspersed with intertitles giving us facts about scorpion anatomy, mating habits, and the like.  After about five minutes or so, suddenly we get the caption “a short while later,” and suddenly we’re following a guy dressed in rags picking his way up a rocky hill.  The film follows his story for a while – and then drops him to follow the courtship of a well-to-do couple with some unique sexual habits run into each other at a party and sneak off to the garden for an attempted hookup. And then the film jumps yet one more place at the very end.

The whole thing reminded me strangely of your average episode of Monty Python’s Flying Circus.  Their episodes often had a series of sketches strung together by the most tenuous of links – sometimes a character from one sketch would leave, the camera following him, until he walked on set for the next sketch, and it started. Or Terry Gilliam’s animation would be the link connecting one bit to the next.  L’Age D’Or is structured much the same way, with the man in rags encountering a group of dignitaries arriving at a beach by boat; the dignitaries are the next “sketch”, all come to witness a pompous official lay the cornerstone of a monument.  But his speech is interrupted by a man in the crowd – who is then escorted off the beach and into town, with the camera following him all the way into the next sketch; since he is the man in the courting couple.

Similarly, just like Python loved to inject elements of the surreal just into the background of their sketches, Bunel loved to interject things into the background for shock effect or just to confuse people – like the raggedy man spotting a group of bishops huddled together in prayer on the beach.  Or the woman from the courting couple walking into her bedroom to dress for the party – and shooing away a cow that had curled up on her bed like it was a lap dog.

Terry Gilliam is supposed to be a Bunel fan, though, so there’s probably cause for the comparison in surrealism.

What flipped audiences out at the time, though, was the sex. Not that we see any sex outright – but it’s really heavily implied, especially with the courting couple. There’s no nudity, but there is some very suggestive caressing, and kissing.  And….finger sucking.

Audiences were also pretty miffed at the final sequence, which was supposed to be about a group of sadistic noblemen who’d holed up in a castle with a bunch of girls for an orgy. The action picks up right when the orgy is breaking up and “the surviving orgiasts are ready to emerge to the light of mainstream society.”  But when the castle doors open and the first nobleman leaves the sex party….he looks rather like SomeOne else.

Yeah, so people didn’t like that too much.

At its French premiere,  which was held at a French studio, a group calling itself the Ligue des Patriotes (the League of Patriots) threw ink and paint at the screen during the film, then ran out to the lobby and started to destroy any artwork they saw by Dali, in protest.  The Spanish public was similarly incensed, if a bit more well-behaved; instead of a riot, they settled for a sternly-worded piece in a Spanish paper calling the film “…the most repulsive corruption of our age … the new poison which Judaism, Masonry, and rabid, revolutionary sectarianism want to use in order to corrupt the people”.  In the US, the only place willing to screen the film near the time of its release was the Museum of Modern Art; then the film was quietly shelved for forty years, until a theater in San Francsisco ran it for two weeks in 1979.


Movie Crash Course: All Quiet On The Western Front

I wanted to like this film.  I really, really did.

Based on the famous Erich Maria Remarque’s book, All Quiet On The Western Front is a tale of World War I from the German side.  And where the earlier film The Big Parade focused mostly on soldiers’ heroism, Western Front focuses more on the futility and downright waste of war.

The film is a pretty faithful adaptation of the book, starting with the main characters as fresh-faced young students, under the thrall of a high school professor urging them all to enlist by spinning yarns of glory and valor and heroism.

But that quickly gives way to the reality of war in the trenches itself, with our band of soldiers facing starvation rations, bedding down in muddy bunks, fighting off panic during days and days of bombardment, coping with severe wounds and an endless grind of battle, without ever really knowing where they are, what they’ve accomplished, and how much difference it made.  We never learn where our soldiers actually are stationed, or what battles they’re in or whether their fighting has had any impact.  They’re just fighting. This is their lives now, and that’s it.

My only problem is that there are times when it feels like the film is trying to be too faithful an adaptation of the book – by shoehorning some of its text into the character’s mouths. At times this works – such as the scene where the soldiers are relaxing on a rare break and waxing philosophical about the concept of war, and their avuncular captain hits on an idea:

I’ll tell ya how it should all be done. Whenever there’s a big war comin’ on, you should rope off a big field.on the big day, you should take all the kings and their cabinets and their generals, put them in the center dressed in their underpants and let ’em fight it out with clubs. The best country wins.

Another powerful moment is a scene where our lead (Lew Ayres, as the everymensch “Paul”) ends up in the same foxhole as a French soldier and stabs him in self-defense, but is forced to stay there for the next several hours during shelling. The French soldier takes several hours to die, and Paul, nearly out of his mind from guilt and fear, goes from raging at his victim to begging forgiveness to gnashing his teeth over war’s pointlessness.

And then there are times when Paul is forced to recite some lengthy speech lifted directly from the book, but in the book those speeches were usually something that Paul was just thinking to himself during a moment of introspection.  Passages like that don’t always translate well to being spoken out loud, no matter the circumstances.

The weirdest example of this is in a scene where Paul and some of his comrades have snuck off to meet some local French girls, bribing them with bread and sausage in exchange for a little nookie.  We don’t see the actual sex (this was 1930, after all), but it’s pretty heavily implied the evening will go that way as the soldiers and desmoiselles carouse.  But the next scene simply has the camera pan over the darkened kitchen where everyone was eating, as Paul speaks to his hookup off camera.  He first introduces himself to the uncomprehending woman he’s presumably just slept with; and then delivers a lengthy speech to her about how war has deadened him…or something.  I admit I wasn’t listening, because I was rolling my eyes at how clumsy an attempt it was to cram in yet another quote.

It’s even more frustrating the filmmakers felt this was necessary, since there are some scenes they pull off so well.  Like the “let the king fight in his underwear” scene quoted above. Or a scene where Paul and a buddy are getting some R&R in an officer’s bar, and spot a poster of a girl on the wall and have a whole fantastical conversation about her.

There are some haunting wordless shots as well – like a scene from a battle, where an Allied soldier grabs hold of the barbed wire in front of Paul and starts to climb over, but Paul lobs a grenade at him; when the dust clears, the soldier’s hands still grasp the wire, but the rest of him is gone.  Or when Paul is home on leave, and his proud father has taken him out to the beer hall with some of his father’s friends; but after toasting Paul’s bravery, they each start to offer advice to Paul about “strategy for your next battle”, going so far as to unfold a map and point out their tactical advice. Paul says nothing; and before long, the men are arguing with each other about the best strategy.  After a moment, Paul wordlessly gets up and leaves, unnoticed, as they argue on.

The last shot of the film is most poignant.  It’s a rerun of an earlier scene, with the main characters arriving at the front for the first time, the row of them marching away from us, each one turning their heads to look uneasily behind them.  This time the same footage is superimposed over a still shot of a graveyard filled with white crosses.

Okay, yeah, it’s a little on-the-nose, but it’s better than listening to Ayers say things that no human would say out loud without someone else eventually asking “hey, mac, why are you talking like that?”

I am probably fussing overmuch, though. The film was a huge success in the United States when it was released, earning praise for both the message and the filming.  There’s a lengthy shot where the camera pans along the edge of a trench showing a seemingly inexhaustable parade of Allied soldiers running up to the edge and preparing to attack, only to be shot down at the last minute.  It had….somewhat less success in Europe, however; the book was banned in Germany (unsurprisingly), and thus so was the film.  Italy and Austria also both banned the film, along with (puzzlingly) Australia.  And – the French weren’t all that crazy about the easy virtue of the French women depicted in the film.

However, it seems that Lew Ayres was most affected of all. The futility of war was so hammered home for him, after appearing in the film, that when World War II broke out only ten years later, he tried to register as a conscientious objector.  He eventually joined the medical corps and served for three years, even earning battle stars, but the initial public displeasure with his refusal to fight left a permanent mark on his career.

….and this marks the 50th Review I’ve done for the Movie Crash Course.  Roll on the remaining….1,149.

Movie Crash Course: The Blue Angel

Oh, yeah, Marlene Dietrich would have been totally wrong for Pandora’s Box

The Blue Angel is a story of romantic obsession leading to the ruin of a respectable professor in Weimar Germany. Our hero, Immanuel Rath, teaches English and literature at a boys’ high school in an unnamed city; he’s strict and meticulous, and thus he doesn’t like it one bit when he learns some of his students have been slipping off to a seedy night club in the evenings called “The Blue Angel”.  He’s even less impressed that they’ve been bringing back postcards depicting the show’s scantily-clad star, Lola Lola. Rath heads to the club one night to either catch the boys in the act or persuade Lola Lola to talk sense into them.

Well – he tries, anyway. Despite his appeal to decency, Lola doesn’t seem to think that the boys’ good moral character is any business of hers, and blithely goes on preparing for her next act – including changing her costume in front of Rath, which completely flusters him to the point that he flees without his hat.  Rath uses the missing hat as an excuse to call again the next day, and again tries to appeal to Lola’s sense of decency.  But she’s got him figured out, and insists she watch her next number – which she dedicates to him as she sings.

Rath is smitten.  Rath is hooked.  And, when the principal of the school finds out, Rath is out of a job.  But he’s so addled by love he just sees this as a chance to run off with Lola when her troupe is leaving town – and despite laughing uproariously when he proposes, Lola takes him up on it.

At first bumming around with Lola and the other performers is a grand adventure for Rath. But when he crabs about Lola still selling the postcards with her picture – but then realizing it’s how the troupe makes most of its money – he relents, uneasily realizing that she’s the moneymaker of this particular relationship.  He can’t teach any more, he sucks as a salesman; the only thing he can do is make a go of performing himself.

Some years later, Rath is still a lackluster clown; Lola is still the star of the show.  They’re still married, but not quite so happily. And lo – the troupe makes a return to Rath’s old town, and to his horror, they play up his name on their show posters, and so of course – even worse – the house is packed with old neighbors and former students who want to gawk. And worst of all – just as Rath is about to go onstage, he sees Lola slipping into her dressing room with another man…

I didn’t realize that I’d seen Emil Jennings – who stars as Immanuel Rath – before.  But he was the doorman in The Last LaughThis film was towards the end of his career; after his work in silent films, he tried to make a go of things in Hollywood, and even won the first Best Actor Oscar in 1929*.  But his thick German accent made him a poor fit for the talkies, and he soon ended up back in Germany; where soon the only work he could get was a series of pro-Nazi films; he disagreed with the politics, but held his nose to keep working.  Reportedly, when the Allies finally invaded Berlin in 1945, Jennings started carrying his Oscar statuette with him as a sort of talisman to prove that “I’m one of the good guys!” But his decade of collaboration was too damning to ignore, and he retired from films altogether.

Marlene Dietrich, however, had completely the opposite path.  This was one of Jennings’ last films; it was one of her first. Jennings was being pushed out of Hollywood; Dietrich was launched into major Hollywood success. Jennings was forced into collaborating with the Nazis to get work; Dietrich used her new fame to claim dual citizenship in the United States during World War II – her fame no doubt assuring she could get away with it – and used her fame and her status to launch a series of humanitarian and anti-Nazi campaigns.

And she is perfect as Lola, for all the reasons that would have made her totally wrong for Lulu in Pandora’s Box. Lola is manipulative where Lulu is simply naive; Lola is seductive, calculating, a little cruel. She has an air of knowing exactly what’s going on and exactly what you’re about to do, even before you do it – especially if that thing you were about to do was flirt with her.  And she can do it just with a look – a very, very sly look.

There’s a word in an indigenous language from Tierra Del Fuego – “mamihlapinatapai“, which essentially means, a look that two people share when they both want something to happen but neither one is brave enough to make the first move. At first I thought Marlene Dietrich’s mamihlapinatapai was all through the film, but now I’m not so sure – instead, I think that it’s more of a look that says “we both want this to happen, and I could make the first move, but I’m gonna wait for you to do it so you can’t blame me – and we both know damn well you’ll do it, too.”



* A footnote about Jennings’ Best Actor Oscar – he was actually the runner-up, and only received his statuette due to a technicality. The real winner of the popular vote that first year was Rin-Tin-Tin; the Academy quietly chose to disqualify any non-human contestants during that first year.

Movie Crash Course: An Update To The Syllabus…

So remember when I just said two days ago that my movie list was ending with Grand Budapest Hotel?

Hah.  Nope.  That was the last film on the list as of the 2015 edition of the Movies To See Before You Die books.  And – as I was sort of expecting – there has indeed been another edition since then, that just came out in October.  And since I am a completist, I have added the latest new entries from the 2017 edition to my list.

….All twenty of them.

Fortunately, one of the last films is the lovely Moonlight, which does indeed have a Binging With Babish recipe – the pollo ala plancha, which the main character’s best friend makes up for him during a reunion (the Binging with Babish clip below features the scene in its opening).

It’s a lovely scene, actually, and it was a delicious-sounding recipe. And there was something beautiful in the film about how the lead’s friend lovingly takes time over the meal’s preparation – he’s working as a short-order cook, but he takes the time to carefully plate everything, placing everything just so, before serving it.  The scene is supposed to acknowledge the intimacy simmering at the heart of their relationship, and illustrate one of the few sources of genuine love the lead character has ever known.

It’s a lovely scene, and even though it means that I have 20  more movies to watch now, I’m secretly a little glad that this dish has supplanted the courtesan au chocolat as the swan song.


Movie Crash Course: Little Caesar

Welp, I’ve seen the ur-war film, now it’s the ur-gangster film.  At least the feature interviews on the DVD I got said so, with a handful of talking-head interviews with lots of film scholars. Even Martin Scorcese turns up to make that case. A friend who’d heard I was about to watch this pointed out that even Bugs Bunny cartoons patterned their “gangster characters” after Edward G. Robinson’s performance in this.

So it feels a bit unsporting to say that Edward G. Robinson didn’t seem to be quite so threatening a gangster.

The film is about the rise and fall of Caesar Enrico Bandello – who goes by “Rico” – in Chicago’s underworld. At the start of the film, he and his buddy Joe are small-town crooks robbing gas stations and drug stores, but after one of their heists they decide to go for broke in the big city. Rico is set on his life of crime, but Joe wants to go a different route – he wants to be a dancer. They head to Chicago to pursue their separate paths.

Rico stays in touch with Joe, though, and when Rico’s mob boss “Big Boy” proposes a hit on the night club where Joe works as a dancer, Rico bullies Joe into collaborating on the plot. During the furor, Rico ignores Big Boy’s order that they conduct a clean heist, and siezes the chance to shoot the police commissioner.  Big Boy dresses him down after the heist – but Rico argues back that his boss is just “getting soft” and declares that maybe he should take charge.

….I have to stop a moment – because this, here, is exactly where the film lost me.  Rico’s boss is one of Chicago’s main mob bosses, and here comes Rico, an upstart who’s disobeyed orders and declared that not only was he not wrong, but that he should take over.  Tony Soprano or Vito Corleone would have thrown the guy out of his office and then sent one of their other men to assassinate Rico a few days later, right?  Right.  But instead – Big Boy totally caves and puts Rico in charge, with only the faintest of protests. Which I didn’t buy in the slightest.  Unfortunately, Rico’s “meteoric rise to power” is told in exactly this flimsy a fashion, with a series of increasingly more powerful mob bosses simply rolling over in submission after Rico blusters a bit – making what was a major plot thread feel completely unbelieveable.

Ah well.

This isn’t to say that the film was a loss.  Instead, I was more fascinated by some things it was seeming to say about wealth and fame. In the first scene, the catalyst for Rico’s wanting to go to Chicago is a fluffy news piece about a big-name Chicago gangster enjoying a splashy party, and wearing a piece of diamond jewelry for the occasion.  In a later scene, when Rico is still one of Big Boy’s underlings, he’s tagged along in the entourage when Big Boy goes to a meeting with another mob boss; and the film makes a point of showing us when Rico covetously examines the other boss’s pocket watch, tie pin and other bling.  For Rico, the bling is the important thing; the bling is how he can be sure he is successful himself.  He wants his own name in the paper, for any price.  And – he does get that, for a time.

But every so often we get a glimpse of Joe’s path, which makes for a fascinating contrast. After the hit on the night club, Joe ghosts on Rico, devoting himself to his dancing job – and to his dancing partner Olga, who before long is shacking up with Joe. Rico stops by after a while – he’s afraid that Joe knows too much about him, and has come to convince Joe to work for him again. When Joe refuses, Rico considers killing him – but can’t.  This moment of Rico “going soft” is where his own luck takes a downturn, sending him into hiding at a flophouse while Joe and Olga continue on their own story.

At the very end of the film, we get one last glance at how these two friends’ paths diverged. As Rico gasps out his last breath after a shootout (“Mother of mercy, is this the end of Rico?”), the camera pans up – to reveal that he is lying under a billboard advertising Joe and Olga’s new show at a local theater.

So, I admit that this contrasting-paths perspective is very likely what the filmmakers intended – that we were to consider how the pursuit of a fast life and flashy status signifiers lead Rico to a bad end, while dedication to a craft and a passion led to real success for Joe.  But it seems that most people were more titillated by Rico’s story instead.  Whereas I didn’t buy it because it wasn’t mean enough.  I’m not entirely sure what to make of that.

Movie Crash Course Concessions Stand

Because honestly, lunch was one of the best parts of the day in school anyway.

Sometime a few months ago, I discovered the Youtube channel “Binging With Babish” and fell instantly in love.  Binging With Babish is run by a filmmaker and amateur chef, who got curious about what the food depicted in movies and television actually might taste like – so he started trying the food out, trying to recreate the dish as depicted wherever possible, even if it was something utterly terrible-sounding like the candy breakfast pasta from Elf.  Or, he would come up with his own creation, like with the pigeon pie in his Game of Thrones episode here.

That was actually the first of his videos I saw, and gives a good idea of his approach; he’s smart about cooking, he tries to stay true to the spirit of the original dish, and he’s funny.  I was sold, and I’ve been watching his videos a lot in between movies for the Crash Course.

And when I saw he had a cookbook just come out, it immediately went on my Amazon wish list – and arrived as one of my Christmas gifts, courtesy of an aunt and uncle (thanks, Peter and Ellen!).  I immediately started flipping through it and making notes; there are some of the recipes featured in the videos, but also some that make their inaugural appearance in the books.  Of course I wanted to play.  And then I noticed – about a dozen or so of the recipes correspond with movies from the Crash Course list, which offers the perfect excuse to play around.

And thus has the Movie Crash Course acquired a Home Ec elective.  Going forward, after I review any of the movies from the list that have a corresponding recipe from Binging with Babish – either something from the book, or something on his Youtube channel – I’ll try it out, and report back.  There are some exciting-sounding things to try out, like a French Toast recipe inspired by Kramer Vs. Kramer, a gelato inspired by Roman Holiday and crème brulee for Amelie.  Some things sound really ambitious, like the Peking Duck from A Christmas Story; although, I’m going to be spared the most labor-intensive dish, fortunately (he has a recipe for the timpano from Big Night, a movie which is not on my list), but the last recipe on the list is going to be the fussy “courtesan au chocolat” pastry  from Grand Budapest Hotel – that is three chocolate cream puffs, in three different sizes, stacked on top of each other and bedecked in Wes Anderson pastels.

And my first recipe….well, I already tried it, and was honestly hoping to have it featured here today: it’s a recipe for dinner rolls as tribute to The Gold Rush, inspired by Charlie Chaplin’s dancing-dinner-rolls schtick.  And I did try it out this weekend.

However. Much as I love this cookbook, he does assume that the reader has a standing mixer, which can knead bread dough by proxy for the cook.  I….do not have a standing mixer.  So instead of the thorough 3-minute mechanical kneading the dough should have gone through, it only got about a minute and a half of me with a bowl and a wooden spoon trying to mimic the motions of a hand mixer as well as I could before my right bicep went numb.

And then to add insult to injury, my yeast was a little on the aged side.  Still able to proof, but not quite so enthusiastically.  And I was also cooking in the middle of a flippin’ arctic weather system that has settled over New York like a glacier for the past several days, so the advice to “let the dough rise two hours in a warm place” was pretty much impossible.   I forged ahead anyway, even as far as “slashing the rolls with a sharp knife before putting them in the oven” – but all my knives were too dull.

So my rolls were….well, they were actually downright tasty.  I ate two with dinner the night I made them, and then a further three as a midnight snack the next night and brought two to work with me yesterday.  But what they weren’t was photogenic.  So I’m considering this a test run, and will be trying again on a warmer day with fresher yeast and a sharper knife for the shaping step.   And….maybe I’ll hint broadly for a stand mixer when my birthday rolls around first, as well.  I’ve actually got ample time – the next featured recipe isn’t until I get to a cocktail from Casablanca and that’s quite a ways off yet.

Movie Crash Course: Pandora’s Box

Where I went to college, the movie poster for Pandora’s Box was pretty common among the drama and film students I knew.  One of my roommates even had a copy – Louise Brooks, in the act of unveiling her heavy bangs and huge brown eyes, watched over me from a dorm wall through my senior year.  A second copy of the poster was on permanent display at the Angelika movie house on Houston Street, one of my regular movie spots; similar copies probably grace other movie houses to this day.

That poster, I’ve realized, doesn’t actually say anything about the plot of the film itself – it showcases Brooks, and Brooks alone.  Anything else about the film – the plot, the other cast, the director – is incidental.  We get it, the studio seemed to say – we know why you’re going to see this, and it’s for Louise.  Period.  They kind of have a point, too – Brooks is far and away the most striking thing about this film.

The plot is a pretty run-of-the-mill cautionary tale of a Girl Gone Wrong – Brooks plays Lulu, a flirty showgirl, who starts out living in a luxury apartment as the kept mistress of Herr Schon, a wealthy older publisher.  However, Lulu is prone to flirting with other guys as they catch her eye.  She also maintains slightly-warmer-than-normal friendships with other men, like Schigolch – who may be her pimp, or may be her father, or may be both – and Schon’s son, Alwa, a theatrical producer. There’s a countess who also seems to be pining for Lulu’s affection as well, and a chance to start a vaudeville act with a guy named Rodrigo.

The vaudeville act gives Schon the perfect out – he’s been getting uneasy with Lulu, and is preparing to marry a much more respectable society woman in an attempt to go straight.  When he arrives to cut things off with Lulu, he softens the blow by offering to ask Alwa to feature her act in his next stage show.  She accepts, Alwa also loves the idea, the Countess gets all caught up in designing the costumes, and everyone’s happy – until opening night, when Schon brings his fiancée backstage with him when he goes to wish Lulu luck, and she throws the mother of all temper tantrums and locks herself in a broom closet, vowing that she “will not dance for that woman!”  Schon goes into the closet to talk her down – and somehow ends up getting manipulated into ditching his current fiancée and marrying Lulu instead.

Lulu is her usual outre self at the wedding reception – dancing intimately with the Countess, then getting up to some titillating hijinks in the master bedroom with Schigolch and Rodrigo – and Schon has his own tantrum, kicking everyone out and then ordering Lulu to kill herself to spare him his honor. But somehow Schon himself is the one who gets killed.  Lulu’s tried for manslaughter, but her entourage – Alwa, the Countess, Rodrigo and Schigolch – stage a diversion and smuggle her away.  The last third of the film sees our band of fugitives poorly treated indeed – hiding out in boats, losing money at gambling tables, getting sold into Egyptian bordellos (with a last-minute rescue), and various members getting arrested or killed, until finally it’s just Alwa, Schigolch, and Lulu living near the London docks; Schigolch is drinking himself to death, Alwa considers running off to join the Salvation Army, and Lulu is turning tricks in their apartment to make ends meet, until the night when one of her johns has a more violent fantasy in mind.

Director G. W. Pabst wanted Brooks as Lulu from the first. She initially wasn’t available, though, and Pabst reluctantly looked elsewhere for his Lulu, to the point that he had drawn up a contract to give Marlene Dietrich the role.  But legend has it that as Dietrich was about to sign, Pabst got word that Brooks was available for the part after all; so Pabst tore up Dietrich’s contract, raced to meet Brooks with an armful of roses and begged her to be his Lulu after all.  It’s a wise choice – Dietrich’s Lulu would have been all “bad girl”, seductive heavy-lidded stares and manipulative looks.

Brooks, meanwhile, plays Lulu as a seductress with some innocence to her; she likes sex, and she’s going after what she wants, but she simply is driven by her own id, and doesn’t know any better.   Where Dietrich would have played the part with a sly smile, Brooks instead excels in wide-eyed trusting looks and childlike radiant smiles – this is how love is, in her experience, and that’s all she’s trying to do, is find love.  Brooks’ performance is what makes what could have been a cliché about a bad girl getting her comeuppance into a sympathetic tale of a young woman whose luck simply ran out.