'Walk of Shame': Elizabeth Banks Charms Despite Unimaginative, Humorless Plot
Walk of Shame star Elizabeth Banks is as charming as ever in the starring role of Meghan, but even she can’t save the film from being anything other than incredibly depressing.
The R rated comedy follows Meghan’s desperate attempts to make her way across LA to secure the job of her dreams, and is comprised of one comedic moment after another. After being dragged out to a club by her two best friends, Rose (Gillian Jacobs) and Denise (Sarah Wright Olsen), Meghan winds up drunk and in bed with Gordon (James Marsden). After waking up in the middle of the night to a voicemail alerting her that she has the biggest news broadcast of her life coming up, she decides to wobble out into the middle of the night and go home to get a good night’s sleep. Of course, her car has been towed and she is left to fend for herself.
Banks is wonderful as Meghan, eclipsing the fairly predictable writing. Her effortless delivery and constant presence in the film are the only things that make the movie watchable, let alone somewhat interesting. It’s not that the supporting cast is bad, on the contrary, Sarah Wright Olsen is fabulous as Meghan’s dumb friend Denise and James Marsden is charming as ever as Gordon, but the supporting characters are barely in the film.
Despite Banks’ best efforts, the film is a dud, with only a few truly clever and humorous moments peppered in. Walk of Shame kicks off with a promising reel of viral news bloopers recreated for the film –made a bit more R-rated than the originals – and adding in some original news mishaps. The montage is delightful, but the movie never quite lives up to it’s inspired opening, and only comes close during a particularly well executed sequence in which Meghan takes refuge with crack dealers Scrilla (Lawrence Gillard Jr.), Pookie (Alphonso McAuley) and Hulk (Da’Vone McDonald). The dealers, all African American, are the only strangers who believe that Meghan is not a hooker and actually try to give her some help, and are hilarious doing it. This sequence is interesting for two reasons: first because the trio has good chemistry and compliments Banks well, and second because it is the only sequence that comes close to making an observed social commentary. It would make sense, after all, that the only people who don’t insist on judging Meghan based on her appearance would be those who are used to being constantly judged based on skin color. The sequence is too short to really make the point, and it’s clear that writer/director Steven Brill did not intend to explore this idea in the film.
Walk of Shame is little more than the same joke being repeated over and over again. The main joke of the film is that everywhere she goes, Meghan, a straight-laced newscaster, is seen as a hooker because of her appearance and lack of identification. Convinced by her friends to wear a “slutty” dress and go out for a night of fun, an incredibly hungover Meghan is stuck in a tight yellow dress and sky-high heels and no one, not even policemen, will take her pleas for help seriously. This premise is funny once, maybe twice, but the constant assumption that Meghan is a crazy prostitute gets old fast, and instead of being funny it becomes a terrifying portrait of the type of sexism and sexual harassment women must live with every day.
Instead, Brill wraps the moral up in a neat bow at the end of the film, literally instructing viewers with the message they should take away from the film. In the final scene, Meghan delivers an on-air monologue about how wrong it is that everyone assumed she was a hooker simply because of what she was wearing. The speech completely discredits any true meaning behind the movie, as the film was obviously not successful if an actor has to look straight into the audience and tell them what to feel.
The fact that writer/director Brill felt the needs to explain the moral to the audience feels more like an admission of guilt than an intended theme. For 95 minutes, Brill encourages the audience to laugh at the male cops who threaten to arrest Meghan for solicitation or the female bus driver and female passengers who belittle her and throw her off the bus without giving her the benefit of the doubt. If I am to take Meghan’s monologue as the intention behind the film, then Brill has spent those 95 minutes shaking his head at the audience for laughing at a woman being marginalized. This would perhaps create an interesting dilemma for the viewer if it were executed correctly, or if it was, in fact, Brill's intent, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. The monologue does little to shame the audience. Furthermore, the joke is repeated too often, in too many different scenarios, to give any real insight into the problem.
I didn’t leave the theater thinking about how I judge people based on what they wear, I left the movie theater feeling horrified at how truthful and sad Walk of Shame really was. The fact that a sexist joke can be used as the plot of a modern film, starring a strong comedic actress, is utterly depressing.
Walk of Shame is currently out in theaters and available for VOD and online purchase.
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