According to Big Bad Love’s press notes, these are Arliss Howard’s thoughts on directing: “I believe that, if properly hydrated, a movie actor spends more time urinating than he does acting. So when I wasn’t pissing, I was watching.” On Debra Winger, his wife: “Is there a man alive who doesn’t remember her on that danged bull?” On Angie Dickinson: “She’s a blonde.” On Rosanna Arquette: “...I was then on the lookout for her, from her bruised and longing Jill of John Sayle’s Baby It’s You through the desperate and longing Susan so Desperately Seeking.” Big Bad Love the movie is nowhere near as full of shit. Barlow (Howard) is a honky-tonk hillbilly with the New York Times bestseller list on the brain. He’s a kind of grown-up Huck Finn to Paul Le Mat’s Tom Sawyer. They paint houses, exchanging stories about the ladies and other men’s penises. Barlow’s got talent, negotiating the past via his typewriter despite conveyor-belt rejection letters from the book agencies. He makes an impression with the unfortunately titled short story “White Girls with Black Asses” only to then picture his potential publicist as a slutty executive woman knocking on his door. Even as Barlow begins to turn his life around (no drinking, stuffed animals for his boy), tragedy strikes two-fold: a smashed car and a little girl lost become excellent fodder for his big break. Howard conjures the past via surrealist flourishes so overwrought you’d swear he just stepped out of a Buñuel retrospective. While bleeding typewriters and unexplained cows in Barlow’s living room could have been the makings of chronic alcoholism, here they’re just parts of Howard’s self-indulgent notion of magical realism. As much as Howard nobly showcases his character’s profound sense of penis envy, honesty is compromised by hubris (for your viewing pleasure, Howard flexes his ass muscles while urinating). Voiceovers and good ol’ country music are less intrusive than cutaways to thumb-tacked index cards that gratuitously emphasize Barlow’s obsession with words and the irritating flashbacks/dreamscapes depicting friends and family running through dark highways. Howard may nail his hillbilly milieu with quaint flavor but Big Bad Love makes for one boorish ego trip—it’s like staring at Howard’s penis for two hours.
- Arliss Howard
- James Howard, Arliss Howard
- Arliss Howard, Debra Winger, Paul Le Mat, Rosanna Arquette, Michael Parks, Alex Van, Angie Dickinson
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