I originally wrote up a long review of Love Ranch, which I saw earlier this evening...only to accidentally delete the whole thing. It made me feel stupid and careless, and now I hate Love Ranch for wasting even more of my time. I was pretty charitable in the first draft, but now it's no-hold-barred.
The movie isn't awful. It's a poorly-paced, lazily-edited and horribly-scored, but it's not awful. It's just aggressively mediocre. It breaks my heart because this movie had the ability to be better. Just look at the actors: Joe Pesci uses his favorite word as a crutch, often substituting it in place of a character. Fortunately, it makes the moments where he does shine that much brighter. Gina Gershon leads the group of prostitutes employed by the Love Ranch, and she gives the best performance in the movie. The rest of the girls are equally solid -- well, not Scout Taylor-Compton, but that's to be expected -- but underused. Helen Mirren must have shot her scenes in sequence, because what starts out as a strong performance slowly becomes a desperate grasp for something to do.
Then there's the aforementioned editing. Look, I'm no fan of dissolves to begin with, so using them as the chief transition is a surefire way to get me against your film (unless they make sense, like a dreamy, trippy movie or something). Paul Hirsch abuses it so much, I felt like calling a social worker. Sometimes, he literally dissolves into nothing! Nothing! What the hell does a dissolve into a bunch of birds flying add to my understanding of the film? Why are three different angles of roadkill necessary? When is this movie going to end?
Score composer Chris Bacon sabotages any effective moments we might have had. You can actually hear potentially great scenes ruined by his overly sentimental score. One moment you're getting a genuine moment of pain with Joe Pesci and Helen Mirren; next thing you know, it sounds like an episode of "Full House". It's astounding to see just how much a rotten score can completely derail a movie.
Really, though, the screenplay. Talk about a poor judgment of what's interesting. You've got this great ensemble of hookers, a pimp who runs half the city while battling religious fanatics...and you're going to focus on the older madame's romance with a young Argentinean boxer? All the old tropes are brought out: she doesn't like him, she warms to him in a montage, he makes a move, she pushes away, he makes another move, SEX. Secrets are shared, confessions are made, people cry a lot. And I just don't care. I really couldn't care less about what happened to these people. I hoped against hope that someone would light the Love Ranch on fire while they were all inside, in the interests of both compelling narrative and justice. Alas.
Really, for a movie about brothel owners, this thing is very tame, very run-of-the-mill, very DULL. Director Taylor Hackford and writer Mark Jacobson didn't have the balls to deliver the movie the poster promised. They wasted my time and they squandered the potential for a Pesci comeback. For shame.