Jeffery St.Jules’ Bang Bang Baby showed as a headliner for Milwaukee Film Festival’s “Cinema Hooligante” series. It follows Stepphy (Jane Levy), a Canadian, teenage music star wanna-be with big dreams of making it to American Ingenue Singing Competition in New York City. When her drunk father (Peter Stormare) rips up her acceptance letter into the competition, Stepphy gets drunk at the school dance and is taken to the local power plant by her “friend” Fabien (David Reale) who takes advantage of her. When the plant ruptures and starts releasing a noxious, purple gas into the air, Stepphy leaves and decides to hitch hike her way to the United States. She is stopped by her favorite rock star, Bobby Shore (Justin Chatwin), whose car is broken and needs a convenience store, which Stepphy’s father conveniently owns. The two quickly fall in love with the help of a few singing and dance numbers. During all of this, community members begin getting strange mutations: lumpy necks, crow noses, a talking neck.
Spoilers: Stepphy begins to notice a moving lump in her abdomen, and therefore, won’t get intimate with Bobby. On their wedding night, she avoids intercourse, making Bobby flee. The moving lump begins growing, and she discovers it’s a child from the night with Fabien. She has the baby, which starts talking immediately upon its birth. When the purple haze disappears from the town, everything goes back to normal, including Stepphy’s child. Unaware that things have change, Fabien attempt to kill the child, so Stepphy hits him on the head with a lamp and kills him. She then goes on to pursue her dreams of becoming a singer.
Here’s a little back story on my thinking process on the film:
Last year, I took a seminar on hellish comic books. Yes, that class actually exists. In it, we read the infamous graphic novel “Black Hole”, about teens that suffer sexually transmitted mutations. It was an excellent read and I recommend it to anyone who likes dark comics.
Regardless, the synopsis for Bang Bang Baby intrigued me because it had to do with mutations caused by a factory leak. The mutations in “Black Hole” mimicked the alter-ego of the teens they affected, making them symbolic in nature, whereas the mutations in Bang Bang Baby were pointless. The mutations played no part in the shaping of the plot except for ending Stepphy and Bobby’s relationship and giving her a child. That was mistake #1.
I generally enjoyed the style of the film. 60’s-esque vibe mixed with a modern sci-fi technique that added edge. The music numbers were fun, for the most part, but Levy and Chatwin can’t lip sync to save their lives. I’m not entirely sure if that was supposed to be a mockery of 50s/60s music, but nevertheless, it made no sense in the context of the film.
The plot line of Stepphy’s alcoholic father was strong throughout the film, but dwindled at the end, with no absolute resolution for his problem other than letting his daughter go to New York. The scene of him playing his guitar and singing to his daughter was very touching, and about the only time that I saw depth in either of their performances. I understand the film was meant to be somewhat silly, and maybe I wasn’t supposed to find meaning, but it didn’t leave any lasting impression on me.
Regardless, if you’re in the mood to watch a Canadian 1960s sci-fi/musical/comedy, go see Bang Bang Baby, playing again Saturday Oct 3 at the Oriental Theatre.