The TSL’s Grindhouse: Bad Georgia Road (dir by John Broderick)

This 1977 film is, for the most part, set in Alabama so I don’t know why it opens with a shot of a car driving down a country road while someone on the soundtrack sings about running moonshine down a “bad Georgia road.”  Then again, I’ve been to both Alabama and California and it’s pretty obvious that, while the film may be set in the former, it was filmed in the latter.  Those hills and mountains in the background definitely belong more to Hollywood than anywhere in the South.

As for the film itself, it’s about Molly Golden (Carol Lynley), a spoiled New York fashion designer who inherits an Alabama farm from an uncle that she barely knew.  When Molly finds out that the land is worth $100,000, she promptly quits her job and moves to Alabama, accompanied by her friend and assistant, Larch (John Kerry and no, not that politician with the private plane).  Molly is planning on selling the land and then heading back north with her money.  Unfortunately, it turns out that her uncle died owing everyone in the county money so, as a result, his farm is worthless and Molly is now in debt.

What is Molly to do?  Fortunately, her uncle’s two farmhands — Leroy (Gary Lockwood, who once co-starred in 2001: A Space Odyssey) and Arthur (Royal Dano) — are onhand to explain to her that her uncle was a moonshiner.  Molly decides to become a moonshiner, too!  Her plan is for Leroy and Arthur to do all the work and for her to make all the money.

While all of this is going on, Molly is also falling for Leroy.  She doesn’t want to admit because she’s a sophisticated New Yorker while Leroy is a redneck slob.  This leads to some conflict between the two of them, as she’s always talking down to Leroy and trying to deny that she’s totally in love with him.  Eventually, in a deeply uncomfortable scene (all the more so because the films attempts to play it for laughs), Leroy literally forces himself on her and Molly realizes that she could be totally happy runnin’ moonshine with a barely literate hick.

I’m a Southern girl and, perhaps even more importantly, I’m enough a country girl that I usually enjoy a good moonshine and car chase film.  And Bad Georgia Road gets off to a good start with an enjoyable chase scene, even if the road that the cars are roaring down is clearly located on the West Coast instead of the Deep South.  But things go off the rails as soon as Molly and Larch show up in Alabama.  What there is of a plot plays out at a painfully slow pace and there’s absolutely zero romantic chemistry between Gary Lockwood and Carol Lynley.  On the plus side, Royal Dano is enjoyable eccentric as Arthur, an old-timer who may not be educated but who knows everything that needs to be known about both the Bible and moonshine.

Bad Georgia Road is the type of 70s film that was specifically made to play in Southern drive-ins, where audiences would undoubtedly appreciate the film’s portrait of a clueless Yankee getting outsmarted by a bunch of country folk.  (For me and probably most other people, that’s actually the main appeal of the moonshine genre.)  But even if you think that Molly is a totally smug and self-righteous New Yorker, she still deserves better than to get stuck with Leroy, a man who looks like he probably reeks of chicken feed and spilled beer.  Especially if you’ve seen his personable performances in films like Model Shop and 2001, it’s hard not to feel bad for Gary Lockwood while watching this film.  What did that bad Georgia road do to him?

Film Review: Marry Me (dir by Kat Coiro)

In Marry Me, Jennifer Lopez plays Kat Valdez, a superstar who has the number one single in the history of the world with Marry Me, a duet that she performs with her fiancé, Bastian (Maluma).  The plan is for Kat and Bastian to marry onstage, as the climax of one of Kat’s concerts.  For Kat, it will be her third marriage but she’s determined to make it work because, underneath all the glamour and show-biz glitz, Kat is a romantic at heart.  However, right before Kat is due to step out on stage to get married, TMZ reports that Bastian has been cheating on Kat.

Heart-broken, Kat steps out onstage.  She talks about the pain of being betrayed.  In the audience, one man nods along with her.  Kat sees the sympathetic look in the eyes of math teacher Charlie Gilbert (Owen Wilson) and she calls him up on stage.  “Kat,” the minister asks, “Do you take this guy?”  She says “I do.”  Charlie says that he does.  And …. they’re married!

Wait, what?

Now, of course, Charlie really isn’t sure who Kat Valdez is.  He came to the concert with his daughter and his best friend (played by Sarah Silverman) and the only reason that he was holding a sign that read “Marry Me,” was because it was handed to him at the last minute.  Charlie is far more interested in walking his dog, trying to connect with daughter, and coaching his students to victory in the upcoming mathalon.  As they leave the concert, Charlie explains that he just said “yes” because Kat appeared to need someone at that moment and that he certainly doesn’t expect to remain married to Kat.

However, Kat’s management suggests that maybe the two of them should stay married for three months, just for the sake of good publicity….

Wait, what?

Look, I could tell you that Marry Me is a deeply silly film but you probably already guessed that.  You probably guessed that from watching the trailer.  It’s a determinedly old-fashioned film, with the only thing indicating that the film was made after 2014 is the fact that it’s Jimmy Fallon who is shown making jokes about Kat’s marriage instead of Jay Leno.  The plot is not only silly but it’s also extremely predictable.  Do I really need to tell you that Kat is going to be charmed by Charlie’s simple life and that she’s going to end up helping his students prepare for the mathalon?  For that matter, do I have to tell you that Charlie is going to struggle with the feeling that he doesn’t fit in with Kat’s glamorous life style?  You know where this is going.

That said, it’s an amiable film, largely due to the two leads.  Jennifer Lopez is one of the few performers who can come across as being likable and down-to-Earth, even when she’s jumping into a limo and demanding that the driver take her to the airport.  The film also makes good use of Owen Wilson’s goofy charm.  The film’s story may be implausible but, if something that weird ever did happen, it would probably happen to Owen Wilson.  While I would have preferred a film with a bit more of a satirical edge and I think it’s one of those films for which you definitely have to be in the right mood, Marry Me is a likable romantic comedy.