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KISS DADDY GOODNIGHT (1988) is a decent enough thriller - the kind of film you'd sit through on the Lifetime Channel and feel was not a complete waste. It's got enjoyable (if predictable) plot twists and a good central character.
However, I doubt that anyone watching this would do so for those reasons. Many DVD distributors have released this movie in a budget format, all of them making a big deal out of the presense of Uma Thurman and Steve Buscemi. In fact, this is Thurman's first role (according to the Internet Movie Database it was even her first audition -- she was hired immediately) and she stars.
Thurman was only eighteen when this movie came out, and yet she already displays a certain maturity. A lesser actress would have been swamped out by this role which the script leaves fairly undefined. But even in her youth she carries this off with style.
Now onto the movie itself. I have never seen a film where the opening credits immediately destroys any possible good-feeling or enthusiasm one could have towards a potential viewing experience. Given the plot summary (see below) I was expecting a dark, psychological thriller with (perhaps) some black comedy aspects. I sat myself down hoping for a tense and atmospheric picture.
Then the opening credits actually start and I had to stifle a shudder and a laugh. Making fun of bad 1980s computer-generated credits is a little too easy, but nothing screams "low budget!" louder. It immediately lowers the audience's expectations about the rest of the movie's production values.
That said, given this is an independent film clearly made with very little money, the general production values aren't awful. Of course, the producers accomplish a lot of this by filming with a lot of low lighting (read: in the pitch dark), but it does adequately set the tone the filmmakers were presumably going for.
The plot summary on the DVD box and, indeed, posted in many locations on the Internet suggests that it's about Uma Thurman as a sultry femme fatale who seduces older, dumber men, drugs them and then robs them blind. And, true, this does happen in the movie. The downside is that it really has nothing to do with the rest of the movie.
At least I don't think it does. But it's a little difficult to tell which movie is actually the focus, because there appear to be about three movies squeezed in here. There's the Uma-as-con-woman movie. The Uma-as-victim-of-older-man movie. And Paul Dillon's character seems to be off in some third movie which features him trying to get his band back together, man. I'm sure that at some point during the scriptwriting there was a kind of thematic link between these subplots, but the end result seems more like one movie having cameo roles in other movies.
By the way, the Uma-as-victim movie involves Thurman's relationship with her upstairs neighbor who at first appears to a kindly older man, but who gradually becomes more obsessed and violent. I don't know if it's just me or not, but I'd swear that the actor based his performance on Gore Vidal. He certainly appears to have Vidal's speech patterns and mannerisms. But maybe that's just me.
You'll notice a last name in the cast list. Paul Dillon plays Thurman's loser friend (and he's from Baltimore; Lord help us), but you'll be more familiar with his brother, Matt. Paul does not seem to have had much of an acting career beyond this film. He only has two other credits at IMDB, one of which is "Cop #1" in something called SPIKE OF BENSONHURST (sounds delicious).
Speaking of the cast list, if you buy this movie with the expectation of seeing a lot of Steve Buscemi doing his usual Steve Buscemi schtick, you'll no doubt be slightly disappointed -- he's only in one short scene. He plays the former lead guitarist in Paul Dillon's band and his first line is "Eeeeeh, alright... Eeeeeeh, wanna beer?" This pretty much encapsulates his entire three and a half minute performance (I timed it). Though despite his brief appearance, he is quite entertaining while he's there.
Additionally, I should give credit to the actors playing Thurman's victims who are so slimy and creepy and unpleasant, that I wished she'd have killed them instead of merely rendering them unconscious. (Actually, watching the film the first time I thought she had indeed been leaving a string of dead rich guys in her wake. It was only after reading summaries on-line and rewatching some passages that I realized my mistake.)
There are enough strange touches to keep this film entertaining; whether they were deliberate or not is none of my concern. Every television in the movie (except, for some reason, Buscemi's) only shows old Donald Duck cartoons. There's a very arty flashback to the creepy older man's daughter leaving on a plane.
It seems to anticipate by a few years the Pulp Fiction style of having two characters sit and talk about unrelated topics purely to demonstrate their personalities. Now, before you hurt yourselves laughing, I will gladly concede that Tarantino did a far far better job that these writers. And yet I couldn't help but be reminded of the dialog from that later film.
There is no mistaking this for a anything but a cheaply-made independent film, created by people with a little more enthusiasm than talent. You can see glimmers, however, of where this could have been a much stronger movie. The script is almost there; it needs another draft or two to allow the screenwriters to figure out exactly where the main focus of events should be. The sound editing is poor in places (noticeable changes in the sound levels during cuts within a scene) and the production in general has a very home-made feel to it. But it's a very interesting film in many ways, and I do recommend it to anyone with an interest in studying independent filmmaking. You see things going right and things going wrong. And, for Uma Thurman fans its absolutely fascinating seeing the birth of her movie career, seemingly already with full possession of her powers.