Clubbing takes comic drubbing
Does a movie filmed entirely in and around the Los Angeles club scene count as a work of regionalism? The term originally arose from art's exasperated retreat away from the metropolis to more rural climes. (The movie under discussion, mind you, is not art, entertaining as it is.) But in his 1935 essay on the subject, "Revolt Against the City ," Grant Wood , the painter of "American Gothic," that definitive, if cheeky, regionalist work, explains that regionalists capture the "industry" and "psychology" of their hometowns.
Wood was a Midwesterner who found the city appalling. To a large extent, so does Paul Sapiano , the writer and director of "The Boys & Girls Guide to Getting Down." He attacks Los Angeles -- or an inextricable facet of it -- from within. His weapon (this movie) is a funnier-than-expected, thrillingly accurate assessment of what makes a night out in Los Angeles such a nightmare, from the maddening double standards of getting into a nightclub to the hassles of scoring drinks, drugs, or sex at a house party.
The film's mode is pseudo-anthropological satire. Broken down into more than a dozen chapters and soberly narrated by an American woman and -- for that patina of haughty intelligence -- a British man, the movie is a visual handbook with a mean streak and some practical use. A flurry of charts and graphs present us with information. An apple martini, for instance, can turn a smart girl stupid. And we're told there is a major difference between "sketchy" drugs and "fun" ones. For each diagram, a handful of credibly acted scenes in bars and apartments shows us it's all terribly true.
The movie is star-free. Sapiano has assembled a "Degrassi Junior High" -load of sleazebags, punks, bimbos, losers, cheeseballs , opportunists, and MySpace cadets, played, presumably, by his friends, one of whom appears to be doing Dave Chappelle doing MC Hammer doing Dave Chappelle (you'll have to see him for yourself).
That you've never heard of anybody in the cast gives the movie an extra ply of degraded realism. These are the people Lindsay, Paris, and Britney spill their drinks on. These are the people whose camera-phone footage of Lindsay, Paris, and Britney spilling said drinks winds up on TMZ. Going out and getting wasted in Los Angeles is an industry, and "Boys & Girls Guide" showcases its most dedicated laborers, and the people playing them are completely authentic.
The dissection happens without the pretense of plot. And the slick new disco score by Dirty Vegas gives the movie a sense that you really are watching life as it is lived at, say, Hollywood and Vine, between the hours of 1 and 5 a.m.
The movie is certifiably heterosexual, but it doesn't exist in a straight vacuum. One hilarious passage involves the lengths a man will go to pick up a woman. This includes slipping into a gay club (the hetero girl's harassment-free oasis) to poach women. Such a man is a "fauxmosexual," and the movie mines some good situational comedy out of this pseudo-orientation. There are also just terrific comic details, such as the way the sound of a credit card cutting cocaine on a glass table is a cokehead's dinner bell, or the manner in which the score from "The Piano," or what sounds like it, is used for a drunken, slo-mo club exit.
"Boys & Girls Guide" recalls "The Complete [Expletive]'s Guide to Handling Chicks ," "The Game ," and other fairly recent kiss-and-tell-all instructionals from guys on the scene ("man-moirs," if you will). Like those books, Sapiano's comedy is the movie of a gentleman whose face has been splashed with many drinks. But, shockingly, it's sympathetic to the women who've done the splashing. The film is poised on the local line between advice and judgment. It's also just universal enough to suggest that there's more than a little Los Angeles stinking up night life everywhere.