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USA 1985
Directed by
Alan Rudolph
111 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2 stars

Trouble In Mind

On the surface Trouble In Mind is a neo-noir which tells the story of an ex-cop (Kris Kristofferson) just released from jail after serving time for a murder. He returns to his haunts in "Rain City" (the film was shot in run-down sections of Seattle) hanging out at the café of an old flame (Geneviève Bujold) where he meets a shiftless loser (Keith Carradine) and his attractive girlfriend (Lori Singer) and their child.

This might sound straightforward enough but Rudolph in no way plays it straight delivering the story in a mannered even distorted way (the setting is some kind of modern-day/ 1940s/ futuristic dystopia hybrid) that isn’t satirical or parodic but rather surreal. Simply stylizing a relatively straightforward script doesn’t work. at least not in this case.

It is not surprising to find out that Rudolph worked with Robert Altman as a second unit director before striking out on his own for there is a similar refusal to follow conventional genre tropes, in particular the usual emotional engagement with the narrative. The problem with Rudolph’s version of it is that instead of being detached or wryly ironic the result is more often than not ridiculous. This is embodied in Carradine’s Coop who, seemingly under the influence of Donald Cammell and Nicolas Roeg’s Performance morphs into a kind of Joker-like character as he gets caught up in the criminal world of easy money. This at least has some sort of absurdist appeal but most of the other actors come off as self-conscious.  Kristofferson does his usual man’s man schtick as the Bogartian existentialist hero and Lori Singer brings her blond locks to her character but that’s about it. The only performance that works is that of Divine as crime boss Hilly Blue and that is because unlike the other players he’s at home with the camp humour that Rudolph experiments with (the big shoot-out at the end has some value in this respect).

The best thing about the film is Mark Isham’s music (Marianne Faithfull sings the title song) but that is not enough to make Trouble In Mind more than a curiosity.




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