Jane Levy is currently wowing audiences in the NBC series Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, not that it’s anything that amazing but her vocals are a thing of all round loveliness in a musical comedy that gives her the opportunity to sing a number of very well known songs. And in some ways Bang Bang Baby is the exact opposite, a low budget indie comedy drama that sees her sing songs that aren’t particularly catchy and which has a very dark edge to it.
It’s a really odd film too, and one that I’m not quite sure how to approach reviewing as I’ve one huge issue with it but mentioning that would constitute as a pretty big spoiler. It does need to be discussed though, and given that the film was released six years ago this review is unlikely to attract or annoy many new viewers, but we’ll get to my issues with it later and for the time being this will be spoiler free.
Set in the early nineteen sixties, the film begins with Levy’s Stepphy Holliday desperate to leave the small Canadian town that she lives in with her father George (Peter Stormare), and it looks like she’s found her opportunity as after auditioning for it a tv show wants her to compete in their singing competition. Her father’s a selfish cunt / alcoholic though and so rips up the invite, and she looks set to live a fairly grim life, quite possibly with the nebbish Fabian (David Reale) as he constantly expresses a romantic interest in her.
But then a mysterious pink mist descends upon the town causing everyone to be quarantined, just as Hollywood film star / singer Bobby Shore (Justin Chatwin) and his assistant Helmut (Kristian Bruun) happen to be passing through. Romance blossoms but there’s a slight issue in that the pink mist has caused people to mutate, and it appears that something very odd is going on with both Stepphy, her father and the majority of the townsfolk.
The whole affair has a quite Coen Brothers feel to it, at least the early Coen Brothers of the eighties and early nineties where they were far more playful and offbeat. The songs aren’t all that, mostly being pastiches of the kind of fifties rock and roll that’s fairly forgettable, but the titular track is a fun one and a couple of Bobby Shore’s numbers are appealing too, while the spoken dialogue’s fairly snappy at least and well performed by it’s game cast.
If it were just a weird oddball comedy this review would be far more positive but – and it’s here we get to deep in to spoiler territory so please quit reading it if you don’t want the film ruined for you – but none of the events are actually taking place, and the pink mist, the mutations, and the romance with Bobby Shore are all a mix of a fever dream / hallucination of Stepphy’s as she attempts to cope with the fact that she was date raped by Fabian and is now pregnant with his child.
If it were a more considerate and circumspect affair that explored such a horrendous incident I might have praised it more, but the fact that none of the weirder aspects happened and this is a quirky, mostly played for laughs reaction to an abhorrent act doesn’t sit well with me, I can see what the film was trying to do but for me personally it just doesn’t quite work. Yes, the ending is a (sort of) happy one, and comeuppances take place and all that kind of thing, but the unusual tone the film maintains for the majority of it’s running time feels misjudged.
It’s a film I’m still finding myself mulling over however and perhaps over time, or a second viewing, my opinions might change, I might click with it and feel that it’s successful in what it’s trying to do. But equally I may find myself convinced more than ever that it’s something of a misfire, and due to that I can’t really recommend it, if you’re a huge fan of musicals and have time for films which at least try to do something a bit different you may find some value in it, but there are a lot of if’s in that sentence and it could also easily be a film you find yourself not admiring in the slightest.