In early 2009, the “everything-is-connected” movie finally hit bottom when its chief architect, writer Guillermo Arriaga (21 Grams, Babel), made his directorial debut with The Burning Plain, a film that epitomized the dirge-like self-importance of the worst cinematic puzzles. The best thing about Women In Trouble—another everything-is-connected feature from a screenwriter, this time Gothika and Snakes On A Plane scribe Sebastian Gutierrez—is that it isn’t a Guillermo Arriaga film. It isn’t about violence, abuse, racial identity, masochism, guilt, or any other themes piled onto the audience’s conscience like weights on the barbell in Unbreakable. Instead, it’s about wild trysts, call girls, and porn stars, unlikely hookups, shocking confessions, and whatever other lurid business pops into Gutierrez’s head. It’s L.A. sexploitation by way of Pedro Almodóvar, and at least its spirit is refreshing.
On the other hand, Women In Trouble could stand to be a little more substantive. Chronicling a day in the life of 10 quirky femmes, Gutierrez works so hard trying to establish how they all relate to one another that the film ends before he can make much out of it. His absurdly beautiful cast includes Carla Gugino as a porn star who learns she’s pregnant; Friday Night Lights’ Adrianne Palicki as a fellow XXX performer who has special problems with girl-on-girl action; Connie Britton (also of FNL) as a basket case who gets stuck on an elevator with Gugino; Emmanuelle Chriqui as a call girl who leads Palicki through a wild night; and an ever-expanding ensemble of familiar faces like Josh Brolin, Simon Baker, Marley Shelton, and Sarah Clarke. Some characters are siblings, some are friends, and some meet by random happenstance.
What does it all mean? Nothing much greater than the sum of its seriocomic vignettes. To that end, Women In Trouble tends to sputter to life whenever the stories get racy: Palicki makes the strongest impression as an accident-prone ditz, and her monologue about the source of her performance anxiety is a ripe bit of pulp trash. But too much of Women In Trouble settles for banal instances of infidelity, female bonding, or psychoanalysis when it needs to keep the action going. It’s fine to be inconsequential, as long as the charged-up frivolity never stops.