When I was working on this review for Bar Girls, someone asked what it was and what I was doing with it. I told them it was a notoriously bad lesbian movie from the 90s and that I was supposed to review it. I explained I’d done this with a few other movies for a series. They seemed confused. “What’s the point of watching and critiquing a movie when you know is bad?” Fair! Love it. Really! I always appreciate a question that seems obvious but is never really asked. It turns out though that just because I enjoy a question and get why it resonates in such a pure way doesn’t mean I have a good answer for it, and in fact my answer will probably create more questions, much like it did here.
When the person realized I wasn’t actually going to explain myself in a way that made sense, they said something that really puts into perspective what we’re all doing writing or reading this kind of review: “Well, better waste some more time on it, I guess.” Yes. I guess so.
And seeing that I’ve already wasted the most time on it, you better waste some more time on it, because we’re in this together, like a family, and because this movie about two women who meet in a bar and cycle through an entire relationship in a month’s time was as bad as you all said it was.
We start the movie with a god awful song, I mean just really terrible in a way that feels vindictive, which I’m absolutely taking as a sign of things to come. Between the song’s vocals that sound like they’ve been inexplicably sung a note above or below what the singers know to be audibly pleasing and the lyrics that state, “Bar girls, bar girls, reach for the stars, girls,” I’m convinced this is where Betty from The L Word got their start. Despite this canary in the coal mine, I continue watching.
In the opening scene we meet Loretta, a woman who sort of looks like someone from The Craft grew up and settled into condominium living. She’s trying on a series of outfits in her room to get ready for a night out on the town at GIRL BAR with a friend. When they arrive at Girl Bar, what’s revealed inside is the world’s saddest place to get a drink, complete with one pool table, approximately seven chairs, and an equal ratio of staff to patrons.
Hm, feels like if you’re going to name your movie BAR GIRLS and you’re going to set a large portion of a movie at a place called GIRL BAR you’ve really got to deliver on both the bar and the girls. But that’s just my opinion as a woman who’s never made a movie on a budget, something I’m acknowledging here so you don’t mention it in the comments.
Loretta’s friend Tracy is a tall blonde in flannel with an American southern accent that seems to have been taped together with whatever scraps someone threw out while developing Foghorn Leghorn. Noticing the lack of people in the bar, Tracy says to the bartender, “Y’all oughta do some theme nights. Did real good business for bars back home,” which is where in this actor’s mind exactly, Haybale, Moonshinersville? That’s just my assessment as a woman who’s from the American South, something I’m acknowledging here so you don’t mention it in the comments.
Loretta spots a cutie in red from across the bar and ropes the bartender — a sweet woman named Celia — into “anonymously” sending the woman a drink from her, because there’s nothing service industry people love more than helping people with shit completely unrelated to their job. The jig is up as soon as it starts because, again, Loretta and Tracy are pretty much the only other people or things in the bar.
The woman who’s been sent the drink, Rachel, approaches where Loretta and Tracy sit. Rachel thanks Loretta for the drink and when Loretta looks at Celia like, “UGH, you weren’t supposed to say anything,” Celia looks around like she knows this lady isn’t talking to her!!!!
Loretta asks Rachel if she likes to play pool and Rachel says a hilarious thing that I will say from now on when confronted with a game of pool: “Yeah, I can knock ’em around.” Noice. Loretta and Rachel don’t start playing pool though, and instead talk at each other like they’re in an Aaron Sorkin pilot and we’re just supposed to accept that these women who’ve known each other for less than 45 seconds are already talking about splitting up the furniture from their inevitable breakup without missing a single beat.
The conversation is going so well that Loretta asks Rachel back to her place. They leave together in Loretta’s car, and once they’re back at Loretta’s place, Loretta begins to DANCE BY HERSELF IN THE DRIVEWAY while Rachel watches from the car. Hello, what the hell is this? If I were Rachel right now I’d hope that by some miracle of mechanics and chemistry I’d become part of the car seat never to be seen or heard from again, but Rachel’s 100% Feeling It. Good for her!
Then they bring the dance party into Loretta’s brightly lit living room! If this were happening to you would you A) dance and not mention anything, B) dance but be like “lmaooo what are we doing?” C) pretend you’re really thirsty and stand by the sink, or D) excuse yourself to the bathroom and scroll twitter until they have to come looking for you?
When the dancing finally stops, they talk about their dating lives and find out they’re both emotionally unavailable. This is great! What are the odds. Loretta says she’s in love with another woman and Rachel says she’s married… to a man. Loretta’s like, “I see,” and then immediately Rachel is like, “Just kidding, but I do have feelings for a woman.” What? What kind of misdirection is that? That’s like when someone told me they went to school for graphic design and then when I was like “oh neat” they were like psych, got you! That’s a real degree people get?
Realizing they would be a great distraction for each other, Loretta and Rachel make their way to the bedroom. There on the bed, Rachel goes for a kiss, which would seem like an appropriate read on the situation considering Loretta was angling to get Rachel back to her house as soon as they met, but Loretta backs away and says, “Let’s just visit.” OK! When they’re searching for what else to do, Rachel’s like, “Oh, I have an idea, let’s tell each other about our current or former relationships,” and in terms of the last thing I think two people who’ve found themselves in a bed together should do to curb sex-having, talking about each other’s exes ranks pretty high.
Up first in a flashback is Annie, Loretta’s current girlfriend who’s in another committed relationship with a “straight” woman. Loretta and Annie go jogging on the beach and pet at each other’s faces next to giant rocks! Then there’s Sandy, the woman Rachel started dating after her husband. Rachel and Sandy sit in cars and make out! Then there’s Destiny, the straight girl from Loretta’s past who, based on the accent she can’t seem to nail down, is from if Romania, France, and Pakistan were one country. Loretta and Destiny talk on the phone while one of them is topless and in a jacuzzi!
Then Loretta goes to lunch with her straight and married friend, Veronica. We find out in a very short amount of time that Veronica is a substitute teacher, a licensed massage therapist, installs computer hardware in people’s homes, is on a macrobiotic diet, constantly comments on her weight, and can interact with the gay server in a way that makes everyone deeply uncomfortable. It seems all this talk of chamomile tea and juice cleanses has opened Veronica’s mind to the ways of women. “Get me that lesbian,” Veronica says to Loretta as she watches the server attempt to sexily steam milk.
Later at Girl Bar over some mai tais and funky ska music, Loretta and Annie discuss that time Annie’s girlfriend’s used a tree branch as a weapon against Annie, something Loretta writes off as “drama” rather than a serious concern that should be taken up with law enforcement! Hey-o, girls’ night! Oop, now Rachel and Sandy are here, so I guess we can’t delve into that whole domestic abuse topic any further!
Loretta and Annie’s discussion turns into a fight that turns into a breakup. Annie leaves the bar, and while Rachel and Loretta talk this out over drinks, Sandy says she’s going to go “shoot some stick,” as in play pool. I’m sorry, was there a competition to see how many weird ways someone could describe playing pool in this script? I want in! Hear ’em crack. Weight some corners. Run the box. Work the green.
Sandy gets too drunk on a drink Celia calls “Love Potion” and is passed out at the table where Loretta and Rachel gab and gab until bar close. Then, rather than figure out what to do with Sandy, Rachel agrees to just let the bartender take her home. I’m not sure Rachel’s fully thought through this decision. “So I was passed out on a table and you just… left me there? For the bartender to take me home? Even though one of you had a car?”
Rachel’s not beating herself up about it. The next day she and Loretta go for a mountain hike, which I think makes for the third time they’ve hung out, to reveal to that they’re both in love with each other. “I love you,” they say out loud, hour seven into knowing each other, wearing coordinating outfits.
After their love hike, Loretta and Rachel have sex while music you hear when you get a new age massage plays. “Remember when you left your unconscious girlfriend at the bar? Ugh, that was so hot.” Hell, as far as we know Sandy is still at the bar, but I’m glad Rachel’s getting some action!
Later that week or next day, with a thumb ring and a prayer, Loretta asks Rachel to move in with her. Rachel agrees and double downs with one condition: monogamy. Fast forward to probably a half an hour later where they’re setting up their newly shared bedroom and Rachel asks in front of the Marlene Dietrich poster wearing boxers, a cut off tee, and a bandana, “Do you think I’m gay?”
To which Loretta replies, “It’s like being French: either you are or you’re not.” I’m not getting into this because I’m just not, but know the levels to which I’m not getting into this are many.
Loretta brings Veronica to Everyone Wear a Hat night at Girl Bar. Not-so-straight and married Veronica takes a liking to Tracy, which I know is how Tracy would want me to describe it happening, her being from the south and all. Rachel shows up and soon after so does this lady:
It’s J.R.! J.R. saunters up to the bar and offers to buy both Loretta and Rachel a drink, but only after realizing Rachel’s with Loretta. J.R.’s training to become a cop and, by the looks of it, Rachel’s new girlfriend! Loretta’s panicking a little bit and getting jealous, and she should, because Rachel clearly has more chemistry with J.R.
The night ends with Rachel and Loretta fighting about J.R. These flirting fights are always sad because in the end it comes down to two people agreeing to pretend something doesn’t exist. They resolve their issue by telling each other what they like about one another, and Loretta says, “You know what’s the best part about your skin? It covers your whole body,” as she smoothes her hand up Rachel’s arm.
Hm, I didn’t realize this was the origin story for the first lesbian SERIAL KILLER. When has this ever been okay to say to someone?
Then they go back and forth saying how much they love each other. Pretty gay, I’ll give them that. Rachel says enough to fill the ozone layer. Loretta says her love is as big as the universe that surrounds our own. Then, almost as soon as Loretta finishes saying her love for Rachel is THE MOST, Rachel says, “Sometimes I don’t love you and I just think I should say it.” Hahaha, okay, you were doing great and even got out of that flirting fight unscathed, and now it feels like you are abandoning ship. This prompts Loretta to say, “Sometimes I don’t even like you.” What is happening? We’ve just cycled through the feelings that wax and wane through a 40 year marriage except in a single conversation and about a month-long relationship. N’night, everybody.
It’s Scorpio Night at Girl Bar and I would like to hear in the comments what other names some of you might call this night as I don’t personally feel one way or another about Scorpios but do acknowledge that in general there are strong feelings about them.
Annie and Sandy show up to Scorpio Night… together! Exes datin’ exes. Also they’re wearing the same outfit, which is an incredible power move. This brings up some special feelings for both Loretta and Rachel, so good thing these two are a solid as a rock! Even better, J.R. shows up to flirt some more with Rachel.
Loretta is NOT having it and says, “Listen, J.R., I don’t care if you’re studying to be a Nazi, if you touch Rachel’s hair one more time, I going to hit you so hard the whole bar will feel it.” Okay, first of all, what’s with the violence in this movie? Second, WHY DO PEOPLE KEEP BRINGING UP THE HOLOCAUST IN 90S LESBIAN MOVIES? Of the five movies I’ve watched so far in this series, three of them make reference in some way to the Holocaust. That’s 60% for all my mathheads, which feels like way too many percent. Three, how do those two things relate at all? I don’t care if you’re a bad person, don’t touch my girlfriend’s hair? Shouldn’t it be like, “I don’t care if you’re studying to become a traveling doctor who cures the world’s less fortunate, don’t touch my girlfriend’s hair!”? Also, regardless of someone’s plans to touch or not touch my girlfriend’s hair, I definitely would care if someone was “studying” (??????) to become a Nazi. I wouldn’t like it and I’d want them to stop.
This conversation obviously goes over well for no one and Rachel and J.R. end up leaving together.
Loretta returns home the next morning to find Rachel taking care of a still-drunk J.R. on their couch. “I could kick her ass. I could really kick her ass!” Loretta says while kicking the chair where J.R. sits. Is the person that wrote this movie okay?
Loretta and Rachel continue to fight. They’re both threatening to leave, or saying the other should go, or doing the “WAIT DON’T GO” all while J.R. sits like Bernie from Weekend at Bernie’s on the couch. Rachel packs her bag and takes off, leaving Loretta and J.R. to talk it out in the living room. J.R. says she loves Rachel and says she’s not going to give up on her. Loretta, Rachel’s girlfriend, is like “fair enough!” and gets J.R. a beer? I love logic!
Then J.R. goes to exit the premises with pants undone, shirt undone, and beer in hand. The pillar of society coming in hot! Who keeps you safe at night? It’s this lady!
Ah yes, now that Loretta and J.R. are alone they begin to flirt. I see some plot dice were made for this movie and the writers have just been rolling away at the craps table. J.R. and Loretta start to have sex, and all I can focus on is how dry their skin seems.
Now that Loretta’s done the unthinkable, Rachel is ready to leave – ready to leave the apartment where she and J.R. are currently hanging out. Why! Why would these two be hanging out? J.R. has just slept with Rachel’s girlfriend and is the reason there’s a break up in the first place. No to this! Do better!
But first Loretta wants to explain herself. See, she was filled with so much hatred for J.R. that she was turned on by her and that’s why she cheated. But then also she cheated because she wanted to? And wants to look back on her life like she lived it how she wanted to? Ha, okay, feels like Loretta wanted to end up at point A but ended up at at point Eleventy. “This wasn’t my fault, because of J.R., but also F YOU, YOLO.”
Now Loretta’s alone. You can tell by the way she’s washing and patting her face that she’s in the middle of a revelation. Then, into the mirror, like we all do when we need the motivation behind our character to be known but are running out of time in our own movie to show it or even shoehorn it into a conversation, she says:
“You fucked up. God, I know this feeling. Its like my umbilical cord has been cut and I’m floating out alone in the universe. I’m all alone. All I wanted was love. Was that so much to ask for? Who else left me? Who left me? Nah, he wasn’t there. Dad wasn’t really there. And mom couldn’t be there. Nobody was there. Where the fuck were they? Not there. All I wanted was love. You have to love yourself before anyone else can love you. You have to love you. I really want to love me.”
That’s it, folks. What more do you want? A movie? Get the hell out of here.
We’re wrapping up with Wheatgrass Shot Night at Girl Bar, and how is this place not out of business yet? J.R. and Annie show up together, which I’m sure was an idea the writers thought was “so funny.” Then Rachel and Sandy show up together. Ack! Eventually, because what is this movie without violence, Sandy and J.R. get in a fight. Even though someone stops the fight, considering how unnecessarily intense this movie has been, I’m surprised this scene is not ending with someone busting a bottle on the side of the bar to use it as a weapon and declaring with blood splattered across their face, “That’s how you bar, girls!”
Now Loretta and Rachel are talking again and everything’s fine. They’re back together? Perfect. That’s it. The movie’s over.
What feels especially sad about this movie, and I guess almost every movie in this series, but especially this movie, and possibly why I’m so exhausted only five movies in, is that we’re not just supposed to willfully suspend disbelief for a particular plot line or scenario, we’re supposed to do it for the whole movie. For everything. The entire movie. Sets, even! Oh, that whole bar full of produce? Sure! It’s wheatgrass night, you see. No, no, this is good, and correct, and I do this happily because at least there are lesbians.
Is this why you don’t see older lesbians out that much? They’ve seen all these movies and they are just absolutely wiped? They’ve been walking around shouldering the burden of endlessly rationalizing the absurd and just want to lie down?
Please, my family and I are tired.