Irina Palm: How Could They Do This to Marianne Faithfull?

Nobody can reduce tawdry material to doddering quaintness like the British, but this staggeringly inane joint effort of U.K., Belgian, French, German, and Luxembourgian film financing represents a true coalition of the witless. With her dying grandson unable to afford life-saving treatment in Australia—so much for Michael Moore's miracles of socialized medicine—a matronly middle-aged widow (Marianne Faithfull!) timidly answers a London sex club's job posting. Dutifully divested of diva-hood, Faithfull is stationed at a glory hole with enough lotion to capsize Eliot Spitzer and instructed to polish every knob that pokes through. Voila! She finds mad money, likely romance, and newfound self-esteem, as so often happens with aging sex workers in the anonymous coin-op jerk-off trade. The whole ridiculous thing could serve as one of Lars von Trier's lurid melodramas of female abasement, if director Sam Garbarski's tone didn't fluctuate between kitchen-sink miserabilism and the smirky archness of a Very Special Are You Being Served?—and if it weren't such a pack of cozily sanitized lies. Except, of course, for the movie's urgent warning about the hazards of "penis elbow."

 
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