“Oh, come on, robot girl, embrace the technology.”
— Lanie Burroughs being schooled on the fine art of vibrators
In our review of the radio comedy Loqueesha, we discussed the creative art of filmmaking and, as result of those artistic frustrations, the passion projects, aka vanity projects, developed by unknown, burgeoning actors as their calling card to the industry.
And as with Brit Marling and Another Earth (2011) and Fay Ann Lee with Falling for Grace (2006) — and the recently reviewed The App by Elisa Fuksas, Bethany Brooke Anderson’s Burning Kentucky, The Girls of Summer by Tori Titmas, and Mindy Bledsoe’s The In-Between — before her, North Carolina-to-Los Angeles actress Allison Powell has spent most of her adult life in the world of community theater, following the star-embossed sidewalks of her adopted hometown. As she consistently scored roles in indie shorts and features she, as all working actors do, toiled on the audition circuit and hoped for that “big break” on a major film or TV series. (Been there, done that. And it ain’t an easy life, trust me.)
So Allison decided the time had come to “make it happen” and show ol’ Tinseltown she had the chops to make it in la-la land. So, working as her own producer, screenwriter, and director* — and inspired by Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg — she decided to make a female-centric version of their 2007 hit, Superbad, only with a twist.
Instead of crossing a “chick flick” with an Apatow-raunch and giving us just another flick with women out prove the “weaker sex” can equal men in the lust and vulgarity, and sexual frankness and insecurity departments (Bridesmaids, Trainwreck, Bachelorette), Allison Powell aspired for something higher. She knew should could do better than just churn out a female-driven version of The Hangover. No, she wasn’t going to Bechdel test audiences into submission to notice her work.
Streamers evoke Booksmart — the directorial debut of The O.C actress Olivia Wilde — in their feedback on Banging Lanie. And the comparison makes sense, as those same streamers liken Wilde’s debut as a female-empowered Superbad (which also makes sense, as Beanie Feldstein, the lead in Booksmart, is the sister of Jonah Hill, who starred in Superbad).
But why must we, when discussing gender portrayals in film, critique a female-made film against another female-created film? Is not that, in fact, going against the grains of the inequality issues raised by the Bechdel test?
Allison Powell has certainly crafted a tarty-written film that is nasty and funny, but with warmth substituted for over the top, bawdy humor. So, as I watched Powell’s overly logical and socially-disconnected Lanie Burroughs take an MIT-Amy Farrah Fowler approach to the “societal tropes” of sex and dating — and unintentionally coming off as abrasive and rude to everyone around her in the process — I’m reminded of the misguided exploits of Enid, the graphic novel creation of Daniel Clowes in the pages of Ghost World, which Terry Zwigoff (Bad Santa) brought to the screen two decades earlier.
“Oh, no, no. Are you taking notes?”
“Mm-mm, I need specific tips, area, pressure, style.”
— Lanie Burroughs, the girl who leaves nothing to chance, not even vibrator usage
As with Feldstein’s Molly (from Booksmart), Amy Farrah Fowler, and Enid, Lanie is a virgin. She’s never been in love. Or had a crush. Or been kissed. Or had an awkward dance with a guy. Then, a guy — an Adonis with a brain — transfers to her sex education class. And, as with Allison Powell’s real life motto of “making it happen,” Lanie decides to get her head out of the books — somewhat — and develops a theory to quickly cram four years of high school romance before she graduates and heads off to college. And in her relentless pursuit to be in control of everything, she catalogs everything in a notebook. And her new boyfriend finds the notebook. And while Lanie may not be ready to write a sequel to David Reuben’s 1969 best-seller Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask), she’s finally learned the art of human connections — and that we are not just a bunch of lusting, biomechanical engines.
“When sexuality fails as a means of communication and provides only physical relief, then Eros is sick.”
— Michelangelo Antonioni
You can watch Banging Lanie courtesy of Indie Rights Films as a newly-issued, free-with-ads stream on Tubi TV. You can learn more about the film on its official Facebook page. Other Indie Rights releases we’ve reviewed include Double Riddle, Edge of Extinction, and Making Time.
From the “Film trivia that you won’t find on a Trivial Pursuit card Department“: Lola Noh, Allison Powell’s producer on Banging Lanie, got her start in the business as an actress (as result of her gymnastics skills) portraying the lovable gorilla Amy in Congo. Hey, it’s all about the trivia and hyperlinks here at B&S About Movies.
* For other L.A.-transplanted actors working as their own producers, screenwriters and directors, please visit our recent reviews for the film-festival winners Cold Feet by Allen C. Gardner and Chris Levine’s No Way Out. For a couple of self-financed, indie writer-directors successfully taking on L.A. by way of the festival circuit, check out our reviews of The Invisible Mother and Shedding.
Disclaimer: We did not receive a review request from the film’s director, distributor, or P.R firm. We discovered the film on our own and truly enjoyed the movie.
About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies and publish music reviews and short stories on Medium.