Butterfly Kiss

on May 03, 1996 by Shlomo Schwartzberg
Another "Thelma & Louise" clone but with a lesbian twist, "Butterfly Kiss" is one of the those quirky films that seem to be a staple of British cinema. Unlike in the films of Mike Leigh or Ken Loach, the offbeat characterizations and situations here don't come across as natural and unassuming; in "Butterfly Kiss," it's virtually all artifice. Amanda Plummer plays Eunice, a tough North Londoner who as the film begins enters a convenience store looking for a woman named Judith. When the clerk says she's not Judith, Eunice kills her. Next time around, "Judith" is Miriam ("Traps'" Saskia Reeves), a meek and submissive sort; instead of murdering her, Eunice kisses her and, when Miriam responds, the two begin a crime spree across the nation.
Doing a creditable accent, Plummer nevertheless is perhaps the most exaggerated "religious" psycho since Robert De Niro's Max Cady in the "Cape Fear" remake, what with Eunice's Biblical quotations and chains wrapped around her bare upper torso. Although Reeves' character is believable, she is so passive and malleable she quickly becomes irritating.
"Butterfly Kiss" purports to make some grand statements about desire, complacency and the psychological makeup of a killer, but it's really just a flabby road movie. There's not even any follow-up to the fate of a bedridden grandmother left behind by Miriam. Despite a few gripping scenes (usually involving the duo and the men they come across in their travels) and Michael Winterbottom's occasionally atmospheric direction, "Butterfly Kiss" quickly folds its wings, landing nowhere but on an inevitably "tragic" ending. No doubt the film's gay content, which is hardly its main focus, will garner it some cult status. Unlike other lesbian movies, though, "Butterfly Kiss" doesn't have the substance to justify that label. Starring Amanda Plummer, Saskia Reeves and Paul Bown. Directed by Michael Winterbottom. Written by Frank Cottrell Boyce. Produced by Julie Baines. A CFP release. Drama. Not yet rated. Running time: 85 min. Screened at the Toronto fest.
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