In Commentary Tracks Of The Damned, we look to the commentary track to glean further insight on a failed film, be it a financial flop, a critical disappointment, or both.
The Coalition (2013)
- Finding the point where The First Wives Club, Entourage, and The Room intersect, then not even having the decency to be a fraction as entertaining as that combination sounds
- Being a blatant vanity project for Baltimore Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs, who financed and co-wrote the script with his “Team Sizzle” cohort Monica Mingo, who also directed
- Claiming to be “inspired by true events,” though those events boil down to a group of “players”—whose alpha male, “Optimus” Prime, is a rich, famous basketball player, therefore definitely not Suggs—and a group of spurned women treating one another like shit and talking about it at length for 100 minutes
- Being so confused about its own sexual politics that its battle-of-the-sexes plot disappears into a morass of petty sniping and who-wronged-who prattling from which no likeable characters emerge
- Focusing so much on lovingly depicting “an A-list whirlwind of VIP nightclubs, charity galas, upscale spas, and lavish gifts” that it forgets to say anything meaningful—or even coherent—in the process
Defenders: Suggs, Mingo, and producer/editor Rich Volin
Tone of commentary: Excited and convivial, particularly on the part of Mingo, who audibly bounces in her seat as she speaks along with the dialogue, yells at the “catty bitches” onscreen, and sings the praises of every single person involved in the film, from the makeup artist to the lighter to the gaffer.
The Coalition was clearly a labor of love for all involved, and a decidedly DIY affair. Suggs repeatedly points out props and wardrobe items he purchased himself—including a dress he flew overnight to Vegas to buy, and brought back to the film’s Arizona shoot the next day. Suggs’ quest to obtain the perfect dresses for his female characters becomes a running theme: Later, he tells stories about paying to have a specific Gucci dress flown in from a Neiman-Marcus in Hawaii, and advising his male lead about the sex scene he was about to film, “First and foremost, don’t rip my dress.”
Suggs’ dress obsession is indicative of the overall superficiality of the commentary, which spends the majority of its time pointing out the fancy cars, jewels, and locales on display and lauding the attractiveness of the cast, which seems to have been a major concern: “We always said that from the beginning, we want them to be beautiful, everybody be beautiful,” explains Mingo.
What went wrong: In all fairness, The Coalition has an unprofessional vibe because it wasn’t made by professionals. It’s distributed by Magnolia, but was made entirely independently by amateur filmmakers (extremely well-funded, well-connected, arrogant amateurs, but amateurs all the same) who didn’t let their collective lack of experience prevent them from making the terrible movie they wanted to make. Though the co-writers seem to have different ideas about what that is. Mingo often seems confused and offended by the characters’ onscreen actions, while Suggs adopts the role of the tragedian: “I remember when we were writing this,” he tells Mingo, “You had a tough time with ‘Who’s the bad guy,’ and I’m like, ‘They’re all the bad guy, it’s a bad situation, everybody’s right and everybody’s wrong.’” Later, when Mingo bemoans the fact that Suggs wanted to make every character “skanky”—basically have everyone cheat on everyone—he smirks, with admirable self-effacement, “Yeah, I’m a big fan of Shakespeare.”
Comments on the cast: Suggs and Mingo tapped seemingly every person they know to fill out the film’s many club-, boutique- and restaurant-based scenes, so when they aren’t extolling the beauty of the main cast, they spend a lot of time calling out their friends. Among the notable extras:
- “Kimberly just got a modeling gig, she’s a representative for Bentley, spokesmodeling. She came to my birthday party this year, it was hot. We went roller-skating.”
- “As everyone knows, Chyna is Terrell’s real-life bodyguard.”
- “There’s your cousin, the DJ! Whoo whoo!”
- “Dallas’ date in this scene is one of my best friends… I was like, ‘You know what, you’re beautiful enough, I’m just gonna throw you in the scene.’”
Inevitable dash of pretension: The commentary’s pretension is either charmingly guileless—as when Suggs refers throughout to foreshadowing as leaving “bread crumbs” in the script that lead to future events—or based in platitudes. “We didn’t choose this shot, this shot chose us,” he says of his favorite setup, of the women sitting among patio furniture next to a lake. In spite of the audacity inherent in funding and penning a film based on his and his bros enduring hookup travails, Suggs seems relatively humble about the whole endeavor: “I think for our first feature, we aimed for the moon. Not sure where we landed yet, but when we do land, we’re amongst the stars.”
Commentary in a nutshell: “Remember when you bought this dress, you didn’t know what size she was, so you bought two for her?”