Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Allnighter (1987)

Directed by Tamar Hoffs
Starring Susanna Hoffs, Dee Dee Pfeiffer, Joan Cusack
Rated PG
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"Man, it was great, earlier. Kinda sucks now."

There was not a hetero boy or homo girl coming of age in the 80's who did not have a hopeless crush on Bangles' pint-sized, smoky-eyed front-fox Susanna Hoffs. Quite possibly the cutest girl-with-guitar that has ever walked - Egyptian-like or otherwise - on this wretched Earth, Hoffs was almost supernaturally adorable. Tiny and slender, with big brown-eyes and perfectly cascading curls of brunette hair, Susanna looked, given the sex symbols of the day (this was, after all, the era of Lita Ford and Kelly Bundy) almost exotic in comparison. And she sang pretty good, too.

There weren't very many pop music/movie crossover stars in the 1980's. We were simply not as blessed, as this modern era apparently is, with multi-talented singer-actresses like Mandy Moore, Beyonce Knowles, and Pink. I dunno, in the 80's, you just kinda did your own thing. So, it was more than a little surprising to find out, sometime in 1987, that Ms. Hoffs was about to star in a teen sex romp. A teen sex romp directed by her own mother, no less. As you might imagine, initial interest in the project was fever-pitched.

I don't think any one really expected a Susanna Hoffs shower scene, so it was not a great shock to find out that the film was PG-rated. Still, even without the prospect of nudity, there was hope that the film would deliver all the other stuff we'd come to expect from the genre, i.e. dogs drinking beer, fat guys riding tiny bicycles, power-puking, or at least an outraged mom getting a banana cream pie to the face. Unfortunately, we received none of these things for our movie ticket dollar (which, to be fair, was only like three bucks back then), which might be one of the reasons that I was the only person who saw this at the Pi Alley theater (RIP) in downtown Boston on that fateful Saturday afternoon in 1987. Seriously, they closed the movie after one day, because only one guy went. I was that guy.

But what I saw that day would resonate for a lifetime. I know, you've seen it too, but you, sir/madam, cheated. You fast-forwarded to the future, to this place where obscurity no longer exists, where every act ever lensed is at your fingertips. You watched Susanna Hoffs dance in her underwear to Respect on Youtube. I watched it on the fuckin' big screen, man. The Allnighter is my Woodstock.

But before that unforgettable scene, there's all the other bullshit to contend with. The Allnighter was Tamar Hoffs' first full-length feature - she had directed a short in 1982 called The Haircut (which featured a Bangles cameo), and she'd done a host of art and production work for various films, but this was clearly her big break, and was meant to not only introduce Tamar to the world of mainstream filmmaking, but to establish her lovely daughter as a fledgling actress, as well. Have I ever told you about the road to Hell, and what it's paved with?

The Allnighter still seems like a can't miss on paper. The story follows three friends on their last days of college. The trio in question consists of Class valedictorian Molly (Susanna Hoffs), flighty blonde Val (gorgeous Dee Dee Pfieffer, aka the '80's Cameron Diaz'), and crafty Gina (genre legend Joan Cusack, who nearly saves this tepid cup of vanilla pudding by sheer force of will). They ride around on customized mopeds, hang out with beer-swilling surfer dudes and live in a cool beach house with lava lamps. So that should make for ribald hijinks, right?

It should, but unfortunately, we have stumbled upon the three most boring college girls of the 1980's. Val is marrying some lame old bastard who's obsessed with calling his boss on a giant mobile phone all the time, Gina spends every waking moment dragging a giant camcorder around to film the group's non-events, and Molly is torn between her surfer sorta-boyfriend CJ (John Terlesky) and some middle-aged ex-rock singer named Mickey (Mike Onkean). Honestly, your own college life was more interesting than this, and you spent most of it stoned on a couch, right? It's the girls last night together, and they all spend it looking for love in the wrong places. I would fill you in on the details, but it's not really worth the effort. I mean, you do get to watch Susanna hip-thrust in front of the mirror wearing tiny white briefs, but beyond that, it's mostly soapy girl-drama.

Molly decides to visit Mickey at his hotel, so she dresses up in the most demure pink dress ever donned for seductive purposes and heads on over. He rejects her and she ends up trapped on his patio. Never mind why, it's not important. Val and Gina go to rescue her, but are mistaken for prostitutes and get arrested. Then the surfer clown almost drowns. Everybody figures life out, and Molly sums it all up in her climactic speech. The universe shrugs and goes back to its business.

The Allnighter may have killed Susanna Hoff's film career, but it's unfair to blame her; she's fine in the undemanding role, as are all of our young(ish; Hoffs was pushing 30 at the time) actors. They are just saddled with a terminally lame script. The only truly funny moments come when Joan Cusack is on screen, and even then, it kinda-sorta seems like she's just making up her lines as she goes along, i.e. "When I was young I thought I was gonna like oatmeal, but then I ended up puking all over my bunk bed." She says a lot of stuff like that. She also tangles with Pam Grier at one point in the film. So that's cool.

Cusack's natural awesomeness and Hoffs' considerable physical charms aside, however, there is really no reason to bother with this. I mean, life doesn't go on for fuckin' ever, you know. Watch the Youtube video and move on, already.

Availability: The Allnighter is available on VHS and (very) out of print DVD.
Buy the Allnighter on Amazon.

-Ken McIntyre

1 comment:

  1. Pretty much on the nail. Susanna Hoffs dances in her underwear...that's the only reason for watching this. There's no other reason for this film to exist.


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