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Gypsy 83
cast: Sara Rue, Kett Turton, Karen Black, John Doe

writer and director: Todd Stephens

94 minutes (15) 2001
widescreen ratio 16:9
TLA DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by Barbara Davies
It's 2001, and in the drab, rural town of Sandusky, Ohio, 25-year-old Gypsy Vale (Sara Rue) may slave by day in a Foto Hut, but by night she polishes her Stevie Nicks moves, helped with her costumes and videos by her skinny, 18-year-old, gay, Goth best friend, Clive (Kett Turton). Voluptuous (okay, 'big boned') Gypsy has the same rock star dreams as Velvet, the mother who abandoned her in 1983 to head for the bright lights of New York City. Though her father says Velvet is dead, Gypsy doesn't believe him. And when Clive comes across an ad for the fifth annual 'Night of 1000 Stevies', taking place at a Goth nightclub in NYC in four days time, Velvet's picture happens to be on the web page. A chance to perform, and to solve the mystery of her mother's disappearance - that's motivation enough for the youthful pair to head for the Big Apple in Gypsy's battered 1979 Trans Am.

So begins a road-trip featuring youthful exhibitionism, swearing, awkward sex, and much self-satisfied scandalising of members of the public. By its end Gypsy and Clive will have met a washed-up karaoke hostess (Karen Black), a hunky Amish runaway hitchhiker (Anson Scoville), and a coach load of Sigma Alpha Sigma frat boys undergoing bizarre initiation rites.

The plot of Gypsy 83 is predictable in parts, and it quickly becomes clear that this journey is going to be a rite of passage for outsiders Gypsy and Clive, with both of them finding humiliation, happiness, betrayal, and self-acceptance on the road. The pace sags at times, and the director doesn't always judge the mood accurately, so that a supposedly poignant account of a traumatic talent show Gypsy entered when she was seven comes across as laughable. (But perhaps that was just me?) A continuity glitch means that at the start of the film we are specifically told that Clive hasn't yet learned to drive, but four days later he is doing just that. And characterisation is occasionally sketchy and not entirely plausible, as though scenes got left on the cutting room floor that might show Gypsy's treatment of Bambi in a less cruel light, and explain how Clive ended up living with his pregnant sister or how he and Gypsy came to be such close friends in the first place, given their age difference.

But this quirky film has its moments, particularly when Karen Black's washed up lounge singer Bambi LeBleau is on screen. Who knew Black (Five Easy Pieces, Nashville) could really sing, and so well? But I scrutinised the music credits, and yes, it is her. Sara Rue (Less Than Perfect, Popular, Pearl Harbour) sings well too, and when she dons the chiffon and lace she does a great job of capturing Steve Nicks' voice and mannerisms, not to mention coping with all that spinning in ankle-crippling platform heels. As for Kett Turton, he manages to convince us he is several years younger than he really is, looks good in eyeliner, and dances just like a dedicated fan of The Cure.

What is less successful is the film's resolution, which asks us to believe that a young woman who, up to this point, has done little except slavishly imitate Stevie Nicks can suddenly 'find her own voice'. In fact Gypsy 83 cries out for a grand finale featuring Stevie Nicks, and that this film doesn't have one is, no doubt, due in part to the fact that, late in its development, Nicks' management ungraciously refused to allow the use of any of her music. Sadly, the only song remaining from Stephens' original soundtrack is Talk To Me, a hit that Nicks sang but didn't write.
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