By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
By Claire Lawton
By Kiernan Maletsky
By Anna Merlan
After a bit of awkward sexual interrogation in a homey mom-and-pop diner, Dex coaxes Trixie out onto the little luxury yacht of his boss, a vulgar developer named Red Rafferty (Will Patton). On deck, amid assorted henchmen and lurid shadings ("They look like fornographers!"), she encounters Drummond Avery (Nick Nolte), an oozing, corrupt senator who instantly catches her syntax virus: "If you can't keep quiet, shut up." Expelled from the cruise, she returns to shore to get happy-handed with Dex, until said henchmen rough him up, demanding an incriminating videotape. Trixie leaps into action, and, before you can say Foul Play, a host of dangerous variables come pouring out of the woodwork. With a knowing nod, Lane's showman surmises: "The sword of Damocles hangs over Pandora's box!"
There is a mysterious murder in Trixie to drive the plot along, but the point here isn't focusing on who did it, but rather watching Trixie pursue justice "by hook or by ladder." Her instinct so overpowers her intellectual prowess ("Inside, I'm outgoing!") that she's almost a female version of Peter Sellers in Being There. Clearly, Watson is having a ball escaping eternal amalgamation as a masochistic Irish cellist, and while her cuteness toes the line of nausea, it never crosses over for long. It may be a stretch to buy her as a Chicago cop, but it's easy to identify with her bent linguistic aspirations. One wonders how many takes it took for her to play these lines without grinning.
Screenplay by Alan Rudolph and John Binder
As the leering, stone-faced, silver-haired senator, Nolte -- who cavorted in drag for Rudolph's splendid Breakfast of Champions last year -- once again proves he's quite a good sport, allowing his mad lust to pour forth in an upscale watering hole. His crooked, detached politician is the anti-Trixie, "sworn by an oath not to go beyond the bounds of reasonable dishonesty," and the tight exchanges between the two are inspired. Lane plays the other side of the fence, exaggerating every word and gesture ("Norman! The loons!" he cries, aping Katharine Hepburn for no particular reason) as if he's the only one smart enough to get the joke. Everybody else acts like a regular person, i.e., sociopathic.
It's easy to distinguish Rudolph from Altman, as he's neither as scathing (The Player) nor as wacky (Popeye) as his mentor. Not unlike Sam Raimi (Evil Dead), he started off with schlock (1973's Nightmare Circus, a.k.a. Barn of the Naked Dead, no kidding), gradually littering his visions with unexpected quirks, like the punkish types dropped into a 1920s salon in The Moderns. With his ever-evolving talent roster -- from Keith Carradine and Geraldine Chaplin through Lara Flynn Boyle and Nolte -- his projects feel like family reunions, usually set in a netherworld America. Trixie nicely fits this mold, and even if your knee remains largely unslapped (mine was stinging), you can't help but catch Rudolph's philosophy: "Hey, nobody's human." Private DefectiveAlan Rudolph's Trixie is happily stuck between a rock and the deep blue sea.
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