Prey for Rock & Roll full movie review - Riot Grrrl Fairy Tale
They finally made a Hollywood film about Riot Grrrl!
"Prey For Rock & Roll" was written in part by Cheri Lovedog, front woman for Lovedog, an L.A. all-woman punk band with no major record releases. They opened up for more distinguished punk bands like X and the Descendents. It is a moving story about being an aging punk rocker woman in L.A., and I have a feeling that Lovedog probably imbued this story with much of her own life story.
Warning: Plot Spoilers: The part of this film I am most interested in, of course, is it's function as a feminist fairy tale. The narrative is structured around Clam Dandy, an all-woman (with two lesbians and one bisexual woman) L.A. punk band. The singer, Jacki (Gina Gershon) is often the solid figure the other members depend on. Jacki, despite being beautiful for her 39 years, expresses consistent insecurity about what is socially appropriate for 39 year old women and how valuable she is, as a 39 year old woman to society. This is a very real set of doubts for most women in the Western world, and I imagine living in L.A., even if it is the seedy underbelly, has to intensify those concerns. Despite her worries undermining her self-esteem, Jacki supports her three band mates through trying ordeals. Tracy (Drea Matteo) is a messy-headed drug addict. Tracy confesses toward the end of the film, that she is addicted to narcotics and alcohol. Lori Petty (from "Tank Girl") plays Faith, a bleached blonde lesbian, who rings for Anne Heche in her Ellen heyday. Faith, like Jacki is a relatively solid character, although her lack of experience with personal tragedy alienates the other characters as they experience their own personal horrors. I felt that this interpersonal dynamic is a very common, real one in real life, so the introspection of the script definitely works in "Prey"s favor. Sally (Shelly Cole), the drummer for Clam Dandy, looks younger and hipper with her retro styling ala "Grease", but she endures the most sexualized violence out of any of the leading female characters. She expresses her frustration that her girlfriend Faith looks at her as though she will "shatter", giving the viewer an idea of her own internal strength. The character development here is rich, and I especially appreciated the attention paid to the dynamics of female friendships. Even more, I appreciated the complex web of feelings between subjects that emerges within groups of women. I think these qualities are really important for a movie to function as a feminist consciousness raising film, but in the milieu of female clichés, it is increasingly difficult to construct female characters who don't reconstitute existing clichés. It helps that the character who goes down at the end is not "the junkie whore" or "the rape victim", otherwise "Prey" would descend into the fodder of after school specials. The interpersonal conversation is really what adds contextual depth to the subjects in this film.
The content of the plot explores sexual objectification, aging, rape, incest, and many other issues explored by similar bands like L7, 7 Year Bitch, and Bikini Kill. During the 1990's, Riot Grrrl really was a climactic punk rock feminist movement. As a person who fervently existed in that environment as a music fan (and fanzine writer), I almost feel like this film is a thinly masked one about that time. The piles of tragedy Clam Dandy endure seem melodramatic, but in this case, it is art imitating life when we remember Kathleen Hanna's (of Bikini Kill) assertions that her brother used to rape her, when we remember the horror of Mia Zapata (of The Gits) being raped and murdered, when we remember that Stefanie Sargent (of 7 Year Bitch) and Kristen Pfaff (of Hole) died of a heroin overdoses. The overwhelming shared pain within a circle of people is immeasurable, and that makes the "plot twists" in "Prey" convincing. However, unlike real life, where Mia Zapata's sympathizers had to wait a decade for her killer to be caught, Jacki and her sensitive" boyfriend Animal, who went to prison for killing the stepfather who raped his sister, Sally, exact vengeance on Nick, a rapist character who was dating Tracy. Rapist revenge films can be feminist ("Girls Town") or exploitive ("I Spit On Your Grave"), and in this case, I feel that "Prey" operates as the former.
The other dimension of this film concerns it's plausibility as an adequate representation of musicians and their lifestyles. Arguably, Clam Dandy (despite having assistance from Joan Jett on the set) are not the greatest rock band. Gina Gershon's singing isn't moving or even good. They can't even get a recording offer over $2,000 despite having a decade of experience as a band. Arguably, Clam Dandy spends more time negotiating their personal drama than practicing. This aspect of the film seemed to infuriate people in other reviews, although I think they really are missing the point.