Sugar Town

on September 17, 1999 by Wade Major
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   Collaborating for the first time since their ultra-low budget 1989 triumph "Border Radio," independent film royalty Allison Anders and Kurt Voss once again turn their sights on the music industry milieu that has proven such fertile ground for their respective bodies of work. A serio-comic Altman-like tapestry of interwoven stories focusing on the travails of aging rockers and naãve up-and-comers in the L.A. music scene, "Sugar Town" could almost pass as a sequel to Anders' underrated "Grace of My Heart," striking an equally engaging path between the pain and pathos of an exceedingly unpredictable lifestyle.
   Allegedly written in only eight days, the "Sugar Town" storylines involve a has-been rock band looking for a comeback (Duran Duran's John Taylor, musician/author Michael Des Barres, Spandau Ballet's Martin Kemp, record producer/"Grace of My Heart" songwriter Larry Klein), a studio musician struggling to support his family (X's John Doe) and a ruthlessly ambitious and unscrupulous young singer (Jade Gordon) intent on clawing her way into a record deal by any means necessary. The film industry gets some peripheral jabs, too, by way of Roseanna Arquette as Taylor's washed-up actress wife, and Ally Sheedy as a neurotic production designer who unwisely employs Gordon and pays the price.
   Whether written in eight days or 80, "Sugar Town" is sharp, smart and insightful stuff, expertly performed by the insider cast. Beyond the trick of balancing so many stories, however, is the greater challenge of maintaining an emotional balance that rings true. Impressively, the latter may be Anders' and Voss' greatest success, extracting credible amounts of comedy and tragedy from the various threads without veering into either self-parody or cloying sentimentality.
   If there's a seeming fault to the project, it is only that the cleverness sometimes shows at the seams, betraying just how much fun cast and crew are really having. If only more films could be so flawed.    Starring Michael Des Barres, John Taylor, Larry Klein, Martin Kemp, Jade Gordon, Ally Sheedy, Rosanna Arquette, John Doe, Lucinda Jenney, Lumi Cavazos, Richmond Arquette, Beverly D'Angelo and Vincent Barry. Directed and written by Allison Anders & Kurt Voss. Produced by Daniel Hassid. An October release. Comedy/Drama. Rated R for strong language, some drug content and sexuality. Running time: 93 min.
Tags: Starring Michael Des Barres, John Taylor, Larry Klein, Martin Kemp, Jade Gordon, Ally Sheedy, Rosanna Arquette, John Doe, Lucinda Jenney, Lumi Cavazos, Richmond Arquette, Beverly D'Angelo and Vincent Barry. Directed and written by Allison Anders, Kurt Voss, Produced by Daniel Hassid, October, Comedy, Drama
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