This is part two of a Sebastian Gutierrez trilogy about a porn star, the titular
Elektra Luxx, who decides
to change her life after surviving a hard one-two punch from a tragedy and a pregnancy. The
story began in Women in Trouble and will conclude in Women in Ectasy. Some very
good news is that Guterriez's girlfriend is Carla Gugino, who has been appearing
in his movies since 1998, and therefore kinda had the inside track on the
central role as the porn star.
This film has a very peculiar rhythm and structure. The star's progress provides
the central narrative, but that's really only an anchor for a series of
vignettes about people who come into contact with her. Some
of those people are important to her life, others are merely peripheral. The
narrative works like this: she meets person #1, we see their back story, we
return to Elektra's story, she meet's person #2, we see their back story, we
return briefly to person #1, we return to Electra's story. To mix things up a
bit, maybe we see some of the characters interacting in scenes that have nothing
to do with Elektra, or maybe we see an unrelated vignette involving a
grandparent of one of the characters, or maybe we see them return into Elektra's
life by some coincidence. You get the idea.
It's a little bit of comedy, a little bit of drama, and a lot of magic realism.
(The Virgin Mary makes an appearance, for example, and she looks a lot like
Julianne Moore.) Because the anchor story moves ahead slowly and fills only
about 10% of the running time, and because the script disdains traditional
narrative structures, the film's appeal to you will depend primarily on whether
you find the stagy dialogue and quirky characters amusing, and secondarily on
your willingness to go with the randomness of the stories.
I've seen several of Gutierrez's movies, almost all of them. He was kind of a
prodigy when, at age 23, he got to write and direct Judas Kiss, a twisty, witty
neo-noir starring Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson as bickering investigators
(from Louisiana !!!). Like the Elektra Luxx films, Judas Kiss is filled with a
lot of random, crazy vignettes, and
I love that movie. I have no
love for the next decade of Gutierrez's career, which encompassed Gothika, The
Big Bounce re-make, Snakes on a Plane, and Rise: Blood Hunter. Of course, he was
just a hired gun on the scripts for Gothika, Snakes on a Plane and The Big
Bounce, so let's just cross those off the list, and concentrate on the films
which were Gutierrez projects. Then let's pretend that Rise: Blood Hunter was
just a colossal, regrettable misfire that resulted from a bad acid trip or
something. That leaves us with Judas Kiss, the Elektra Luxx trilogy, and
Girl Walks into a Bar, which I have not seen, but which is probably good because
it makes use of Gutierrez's strengths - snappy, literate dialogue and brief
slice-of-life stories portrayed by a repertory cast.
Now we have a solid career (IMDb ratings):
The only thing wrong with that career is the 11-year gap between movies. In
those 11 years Gutierrez went from "Wow, a 23 year old guy wrote and directed
that?" to "Whatever happened to that kid who wrote The Judas Kiss?"
Based on what he's done recently, that kid is finally back. And, what the hell,
he's only 36 now, so he has plenty of time to get a full head of steam going in
his career. A sure sign that he's headed somewhere is the fact that a lot of
very talented people believe in him, like him, and are willing to take small
roles in his movies, ala Woody Allen. Timothy Olyphant, Justin Kirk, Vincent
Kartheiser, Kathleen Quinlan, Julianne Moore and many others show up for Elektra
Luxx roles that are little more than cameos, supplementing the Guiterrez
repertory company with Gugino at its hub.
I like Elektra Luxx. I don't like it as much as I liked Judas Kiss, but I like
it. It's not a perfect movie, and it's not going to reach a mass market, but it
has a lot of heart and a lot of enthusiasm, and everyone in it seems to be
having fun. In a Hollywood era filled with cynical money-grubbing sequels,
remakes and formula pictures, Gutierrez's personal signature and offbeat
sincerity provide a breath of fresh air.
Besides, how can you not like a movie in which Carla Gugino plays two very
different roles (both quite well), and does a little bit of everything, even a
song and dance (magical realism, remember) and some nudity?