Sebastian Gutierrez's Women in Trouble features some of my absolute favorite actresses giving vibrant, sexy, daring performances. And that's why it practically crushes me to say that the movie doesn't quite work. It's a near-miss by a writer/director who I hope keeps trying to make more of these Almodovar-esque quilts of interweaving stories. Just because Women in Trouble doesn't quite come together doesn't mean there aren't elements of it that work and the entire project hints that the previously critically-reviled Gutierrez could really make a great film like it if he keeps experimenting with the unusual formula.
Women in Trouble constantly walks a fine line between being borderline soft-core porn and practically being a tale of female empowerment. As Britton and Gugino strip to bra and panties in their malfunctioning elevator, the audience is both asked to identify with their predicament and, clearly, meant to notice how insanely attractive both women are. Yeah, they’re in trouble, but they’re HOT. Gutierrez also (sometimes too) cleverly mixes camp and melodrama, as Chriqui and Palicki's call girls find time to discuss throwing up during oral sex while running for their lives.
Women in Trouble has echoes of Robert Altman's narrative structure but it's used in an "adoration of the fairer sex" way that feels more like the work of Pedro Almodovar. The title characters include a porn star stuck in an elevator (Carla Gugino), a flight attendant stuck in a very awkward situation (Marley Shelton), a psychiatrist (Sarah Clarke) who discovers that her husband (Simon Baker) is sleeping with a patient, a neurotic (Connie Britton), and two call girls (Emmanuelle Chriqui and Adrianne Palicki). Gutierrez weaves in and out of the lives of each woman and most of them intersect in some way or another. Josh Brolin, Cameron Richardson, Garcelle Beauvais-Nilon, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt co-star.
The delicate balancing act of Women in Trouble becomes a little unhinged in the final act when the focus switches from camp to something closer to melodramatic substance. And not all of the actresses seem to be making the same film, especially when the switch from comedy to drama happens. TV veterans Clarke and Britton add dramatic tones to the film that feel genuine while Chriqui and Palicki practically seem to have walked on the set from a wacky comedy. (Part of the problem could be that the former two are immensely better actresses than the latter two.) Only Gugino perfectly straddles the line, often keeping the film from falling apart entirely.
Gutierrez reportedly made Women in Trouble in 12 days with a small crew and it's remarkable how much sharper and more interesting a product resulted than the junk he's previously been attached to like Gothika and Snakes on a Plane. Women in Trouble is a fun, beautiful film that nearly comes together to be a more complete experience than the mostly pleasant diversion it ended up. Especially for viewers as in love with actresses Gugino, Shelton, and Britton as this critic, it's impossible to say there's nothing to like about Women in Trouble. It's only when the film is over and you think about all the talented actresses involved, the vibrant visual style, and the overall cleverness of the concept that one wonders why it doesn't coalesce into something more memorable. It's a film with undeniably gorgeous parts that never quite develops into a sum.
Rating: TWO AND A HALF BONES
Reviewed by Brian Tallerico (MovieRetriever.com Film Critic)
Release Date: November 13th, 2009
Starring: Carla Gugino, Connie Britton, Adrianne Palicki, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Sarah Clarke, Marley Shelton, Rya Kihlstedt, Cameron Richardson, Josh Brolin, Simon Baker, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Isabella Gutierrez, and Caitlin Keats
Director: Sebastian Gutierrez
Writer: Sebastian Gutierrez