Monday, March 8, 2010

F*** Me (And Me, And Me) (1991)

(Bullock, moments before she is violated by Tim Robbins)

Our finest actresses have long showcased their chops by portraying the outcasts of society: the criminally insane, the deviant, or the grossly unattractive. In the classic independent film Fuck Me (And Me, And Me), Bullock depicts a victim of both multiple personality disorder (MPD) and nyphomania. The result is a psycho-thriller that is not without its share of comedic value, an expert and nuanced character study along with an endlessly quotable goldmine of one-liners and puns. (Who doesn't chuckle with recognition when confronted with "That's my beaver!" or "I prefer egg noodles with my Paxil, dickweed"?)

Bullock plays 'Little Dana,' a mental patient living in 1980s Connecticut. ('Little Dana' is based on a real person, the author of the memoir "I'm Little Dana, Who The Fuck Are You?", which was a loose model for the screenplay.) While she is being treated for MPD, Dana (whose 'alter egos' include a "murderous wench from 19th century Germany" and "Holly Stinkfist, Punisher of Teddy Bears") is actually being molested by her doctor, Harmony Bozarius (Tim Robbins), who is videotaping her naked therapy sessions and selling them via mail order. Yet the astute viewer soon realizes that 'Little Dana' is not as malleable as she seems; indeed, at the film's climax, Bullock's character rebels against her tormentor, bludgeoning him to death with a vinyl dildo that he has brought along for their latest "counseling one-on-one."

Critics initially panned Fuck Me (And Me, And Me) for being, variously, "an affront to the dignity of the psycho-sexually deranged" (New York Times) and "a B-movie farce that shows Bullock has about as much acting talent as a bruised and slightly rotten mango" (Rex Reed of the New York Observer.) Yet time has been kind to this 1991 Bullock classic. Film professors at Rutgers University, Columbia, and several branches of CUNY now teach Fuck Me (And Me, And Me) in course modules; "The 100 Best Films To Rent You've Never Heard Of" calls the film "a can't-fail date movie, and further proof of why Bullock is America's sweetheart." The female empowerment of 'Little Dana' against the phallic oppression of Tim Robbins was quite obviously emulated by the 2005 Ellen Page vehicle, Hard Candy; it's not such a leap, then, to extrapolate that Fuck Me (And Me, And Me) was also an early precursor to the wildly successful Juno.

Squeamish or Squamish? (Miramax, 1994)

In a breakout role from her "aboriginal sex comedy" period, Bullock proves herself adapt at both physical slapstick and difficult accents. Squeamish or Squamish?, directed by Canadian auteur F. Davis Fillinger (Hormonal Ballet, Fast Times On The Uterine Highway), is a classic 'fish out of water' story in which Bullock plays a young woman who retreats to British Columbia in order to kick a meth habit. (Bullock proves how adept she is at reinventing her appearance, telling press that "I didn't brush my teeth for like six weeks" in order to achieve "meth mouth." Roger Ebert approvingly noted that the lesions on Bullock's face "almost viscerally pulsed.")

Bullock spends a few days detoxing in a rented room above a bait-and-tackle shop. She soon meets 17-year old Egon Ertashink, a Squamish youth of frighteningly primitive appearance. The chemistry between the two "can be cut with a knife," and indeed "is almost uncomfortable in its intensity," according to Bullock scholar Penelope Danner. (Dillinger later admitted that the on-screen sex scenes involved actual penetration on the part of his lead actors, "at Sandra's insistence.")

Ultimately, Squeamish or Squamish? is a classic touchstone of early Bullock, initiating trends -- chemical dependency, sexual fetishization of 'the Other,' pornographic interludes set to 80s Brit-pop -- that would mark her later, major works. Despite shortcomings (choppy audio, inexpert editing, and a script whose emotional range is best described as "autistic"), this 1994 film is a vital Bullockian document worthy of extended scholarly study.