Monday, November 14, 2016

Movie #376: Love Potion #9

Love Potion #9 is a rom-com starring Tate Donovan, Sandra Bullock, Dale Midkiff, Adrian Paul, Mary Mara, and Dylan Baker. It's written and directed by Dale Launer, who also wrote My Cousin Vinny and a bunch of other comedies that are really good. It's also problematic as hell.

Paul (Donovan) is a scientist who has something of a crush on his co-worker, Diane (Bullock). He generally doesn't have a lot of luck with women, because he's something of a nerd (and nerds, as we know, are incapable of talking to women but are really nice guys). He visits a "gypsy" fortune teller (Anne Bancroft) who gives him a thick, red potion and tells him to dilute it, swallow some, and then women will find him fascinating.

Paul treats this like a scientist; he ropes Diane into the experiment and they discover that, yes, while using the potion, speaking forces members of the opposite sex to fall in love with them because [scientific mumbo jumbo]. Diane uses the potion to get out of a traffic ticket, fix her insurance, and then kind of winds up falling into relationships with a rich car magnate (Paul) and the Prince of England (Baker). Paul, for his part, uses the potion to, not to put too fine a point on it, rape a lot of women.

Like I said, this movie is problematic as shit. Let's talk about that.

The potion forces someone to fall in love (it only works on people of the opposite sex, including on people who are not normally attracted to people of the user's gender; Diane uses it on a gay man during the movie and it works on him, which is weird and gross, but actually the least of our problems here). While under the effects of the potion, the victim believes the best about the user and will do anything for them. The limits of this aren't tested, but victims are shown to be willing to end relationships, give away prized possessions, and otherwise obey orders even if they're in committed relationships elsewhere.

Now, Paul, when he first gets access to the potion, goes on a fucking spree (as in, a spree of fucking). He uses the potion on any woman he fancies, and then, we're led to believe, bangs them and leaves them. The potion only lasts four hours, but we're not shown the state of mind of any of his victims after it wears off. This is relevant, because Paul and Diane fall in love, but then Diane gets back together with her old fuck-buddy (Midkiff), who is turns out is using the potion to control her. Paul somehow misses that this might be happening until the potion is used on him by a prostitute (Mara), and then he figures it out, goes back to the gypsy, gets his hands on love potion #9 (the rape-potion is actually #8), and uses it to counteract #8 and live happy ever etc with Diane.

But here are my problems: First, Paul is never shown sparing a thought to any of the women he victimized. Sure, while under the potion they don't know anything's wrong, but especially after he realizes how powerful the potion is, he should have had a moment of "holy shit, I'm a monster" and done something to atone. Second, Diane never has a similar realization and takes Paul to task, or feels any kind of guilt for the men she's manipulated (though it's very much in keeping with the tone of this movie that female-on-male rape isn't even considered as a possibility, and the men on the potion are used for money and favors rather than sex. As an aside, I did like the Diane had a fuck-buddy, though I wish she'd been OK with that relationship being what it was rather than being under the thumb of a dickhead). Third, why does Gary (the aforementioned dickhead, Midkiff's character) care so much about marrying Diane? What can she offer him that he's willing to tie his life to hers, even in just a legal sense, and keep her functionally enslaved for the rest of her life? Sure, you might argue he just wants a slave, but he could literally have any woman. Doing it to Diane seems like a weird choice on further reflection.

Anyway. That's not even touching on why both leads look kind of dorky and disheveled, but clean up and become beautiful after using the potion to manipulate/rape people for a while.

Launer does some really good work, but this one, he kind of needs a bucket of cold water in the face for.

My grade: F
Rewatch value: IINSIAIFWT

Next up: Machete