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WiseGirls
cast: Mira Sorvino, Mariah Carey, Melora Walters, Arthur Nascarella, and Saul Stein

director: David Anspaugh

92 minutes (15) 2001
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Momentum DVD Region 2 rental or retail
Also available to rent or buy on video
[released 23 February]

RATING: 6/10
reviewed by Emma French
Everything that needs to be said about this film can be summarised in the hard fact that Mariah Carey is the best thing about it. Very much a film of two halves, the first half concerns a damaged young woman tending to her equally damaged grandmother, whilst the second is a violent stand-off between rival mafioso thugs, in which three plucky waitresses find themselves deeply implicated in organised crime through their restaurant jobs. The puzzling jumble of genre and tone creates a sporadically watchable but ultimately unsatisfying product.
   David Anspaugh's previous pedigree is in writing for television, and the entire film has the feel of a sitcom pilot rather than a feature. The film did not find a distributor, and generally it is very difficult to comprehend how, and why, it was made at all.
   The film has some compelling scenes, and is often surprisingly and entertainingly gory. The episodic feel of the film, however, prevents the blood-spattered moments from functioning as any more than random intrusions into a pedestrian plot about a naïve, depressed girl taking a job in an Italian restaurant, which turns out to be run by the Mob. Without giving too much of the flimsy plot away, the means by which Meg Kennedy (Mira Sorvino) comes to work in the restaurant are the first of many contrived plot devices. The film also suffers from a desperately inconsistent set of characters - in order to move the plot forward it is necessary for Sorvino's boss, for example, to veer unconvincingly between genial mentor and booze-crazed patriarchal nightmare. Similarly, all the mob gang members exhibit the laziest media mafia cliché - charming and avuncular, in a heartbeat they can become cold-blooded killers. One imagines that the truth is somewhere in between.
   Sorvino continues to squander her early Oscar success in a desperately depressing manner. She appears to be tired and bored throughout the film, and delivers her more meaty emotional speeches on autopilot. The success of Carey's performance as Raychel lies, by contrast, in her energy and conviction. After her Glitter (2001) debacle, she has evidently determined to act her heart out, and she puts in a very creditable performance. Apart from her wonderfully husky speaking voice, she is able to shed all trace of her diva credentials and enter into her character in a manner that has evaded Madonna and Whitney Houston. It is to be hoped that both Carey and Sorvino will be able to cherry-pick better projects in future.
   DVD extras: very brief behind-the-scenes interviews that add nothing new - basically plot retelling, plus a trailer.
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