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Friday, December 14, 2007

Moral Ambiguity In The '80s Vol 2.

I had couple of friends tell me they liked my first edition of Moral Ambiguity so I thought about making another. Once I saw this film on cable last week I knew what my next target was. Even though it's not technically an 80s film (It was released in 1991) it still bears the '80s vibe.

The film opens up with Sue Ellen a.k.a Swell (Christina Applegate) telling her friends that her mother is going off to Australia for 2 months. She believes this will be the ultimate summer free of nagging and rules. Seriously what 17 year old is really gonna believe that her mother would up and leave her children with absolutely no one to watch them?

However her summer fun is ruined when she meets Mrs. Sturack, a seemingly kindly old woman who turns into an iron fisted nightmare the second the mother departs. She makes the tomboyish Melissa wear dresses, insists the Lothario brother, Zack stop dating, and forces the television addicted Walter to drop the remote and write book reports.

The siblings implore Sue Ellen to step in, but Sue Ellen instead finds Mrs Sturack dead of a heart attack. The shock of seeing oldest brother Kenny's disastrous room is implied to be the cause. The movie expects us to believe that elderly people are so fragile that drug and rock paraphernalia is too much for them to take.

Now this would be the perfect time to call Mom or 911 but then this movie couldn't have existed with that logic. The kids don't want their Mom to come back and decide to drop her off at a cemetary with a note identifying her as a "Nice old lady inside. Died of natural causes". Because even though Mrs Sturack was a human being, she was a mean old lady which makes it okay to dispose of her in such and undignified manner. But Mrs Sturack has the last laugh the money that the kids need is on her person leaving them broke.

So let's see broke, no food, no supervision=Time to call Mom, right. Nope Sue Ellen goes to work at a circus themed fast food place where she meets obligatory love interest Bryan. However cleaning out lard buckets is not for her and she quits. Hmm quitting a job because it's gross even though your starving siblings are reliant on that paycheck, smartest move ever.

Sue Ellen is down but not out and forges an impressive resume in an attempt to land a job as a receptionist at a local clothing manufacturer. She impresses the senior vice president, Rose with her "skills" and lands a job as her assistant. Thus taking the job away from obnoxious receptionist Caroline who wants to make her pay. Note at no time did Rose ever question why a young looking supposed 28 year old with such an impressive work history would be applying for such a lesser job in the first place. Nor does she check any of those references at all.

Though Sue Ellen is overwhelmed by her job she manages to stay afloat however she has to contend with Rose's boyfriend hitting on her and the knowledge that Caroline is in fact Brian's brother which threatens to expose Sue Ellen's lies. Dissatisfied with her low paycheck, Sue Ellen begins to liberally "borrow" from petty cash at one point buying new boots for herself. I understand buying food for a starving family but boots come on.

Her siblings quickly follow her good example by stealing the petty cash from her purse. Yes Sue Ellen apparently took thousands of dollars that weren't hers and just carried it around. Note during the time she worked she also allowed the kids to be looked after by irresponsible stoner Kenny, resulting in Walter breaking his leg. Injured sibling, owing a lot of money, is it call Mom time yet? Of course not.

Sue Ellen panics upon learning that the company is going under and there is no time to pay back all the petty cash. Using her super hip teen skills she stumbles upon an idea that might save the company. Agreeing to throw a fashion show at her home she manages to disguise the missing cash as business expenses while her siblings friends led by the now sober and responsible Kenny to fix up the house and cater the party.

Caroline stumbles across proof that Sue Ellen is only 17, but Rose sees it as a pathetic scheme. Rose also learns that her boyfriend has been coming on to Sue Ellen and promptly takes her side. The fashion show goes off without a hitch until Bryan (having broken up with Sue Ellen earlier) drives by her house publicly declaring his love via loudspeaker. Remember though in the '80s this was not stalkerish behavior it was considered romantic. I call it threatmantic.

Sue Ellen promptly introduces him as another model thus forcing poor young men to wear ridiculous fast food uniforms as a fashion statement. But not so fast, Mom's home. Sue Ellen confesses her lies and runs off. However nobody cares. Her ideas are considered innovative, Rose offers her a real job and her friendship despite being lied to throughout the entire film. The boyfriend also having been lied to throughout the entire film takes her back. Even angry Mom is placated by mature children and clean houses.

Everything's wonderful but where's the babysitter? Buried with a tombstone that reads Nice Old Lady while two grave diggers boast about finding the money. Ahh, child endangerment, fraud and covering up a death=good wholesome family fun.