Film Reviews

COYOTE UGLY

By • Aug 4th, 2000 •

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Coyote Ugly stars Piper Perabo (who?) as Violet, an aspiring songwriter living in New Jersey. She decides to stop serving pizza at the local pizzeria and move to New York City to follow her dream! Violet is so wide-eyed at life in New York City you’d think she’d just escaped across the border from a childhood in Lhasa, Tibet. Her best friend is terrified for her!

Unbelievably, Violet gets a job working as a barmaid in the busiest, sexiest dive in lower Manhattan called Coyote Ugly. The bar’s owner Lil (over-acted by the formerly fabulous Maria Bello) hires Violet – who does not have a twit of experience – solely because she looks like a kindergarten teacher. Okay, so the job does not involve making complicated mixed drinks, but Violet should at least know how to pour a shot of vodka, right?

Violet is thrown into the moss pit of bartending on her very first night. The other barmaids are sexual provocateurs who assault the patrons and do aggressive top-of-bar synchronized dancing. Loads of lesbian posing and quick cuts of high-heeled boots hitting the wood. Everybody gets hosed down with water at Coyote Ugly.

Here is problem Number 1: Piper Perabo. Where’d she come from and who thought she had enough presence and charisma to be the intense focus of a movie? She’s cute, and can carry a tune as long as it’s pumped up in the recording studio. Okay, fine. Mounting a movie around her makes me wonder: Who had the hubris to decide to play God and “create” an instant leading actress out of Perabo? For some fascinating reason (probably only I obsessed on), Piper is shot exclusively from a tilted camera angle that focuses on her mouth and blazing white teeth. It’s a gorgeous mouth but, more important, how much do teeth like that cost? Coyote Ugly is the first orally-fixated movie I’ve ever seen. The camera doesn’t care about anything except Piper’s mouth.

Problem Number 2: The story. Nothing happens. This story is so tired I was shocked someone took a writing credit. Violet is a songwriter with stage fright. Violet immediately meets the nicest boy in NYC – an Australian named Kevin (played by Adam Garcia) who works 4 or 5 jobs and still has time to truly care about her. The only big thing that happens is Kevin gets Violet a shot at singing in a club but Lil won’t let her leave work early. To work at Coyote Ugly means making sacrifices!! The dynamics of working at Coyote Ugly and the behind-the-scenes with the other barmaids are never explored. Why complicate supermodel Tyra Banks life with an actual “character” role in a movie? Oh, to have been there for the auditions!

The story is so limp I’m certain the screenwriter never went inside a bar. Ever! Is it too much to ask the writer to actually visit the NYC bar called Coyote Ugly and do some background research?

Problem Number 3: The director. David McNally’s oral fixation is pretty interesting since it completely ignores the beautiful women who were employed to play the tough-as-nails dominatrix slash barmaids. Maria Bello is shot to look puffy and way-past 30. Perhaps Bello actually read the script and decided to overact all her scenes to be noticed. Then, unfortunately for us, everyone else noticed what she was doing and decided to exaggerate everything they did in front of the camera. Coyote Ugly is the new benchmark: You don’t have to actually know how to act to be in movies. All you need is a good Zed card.

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