'Rich Girl' is pretty poor

May 06, 1991|By Stephen Hunter | Stephen Hunter,Sun Film Critic

Don Michael Paul isn't Patrick Swayze and Jill Schoelen isn't Jennifer Grey and "Rich Girl" isn't "Dirty Dancing," but they wouldn't mind if you thought so. Not so much a rip-off of the great independent hit as a tracing of it, "Rich Girl" pushes synthetic characters through a synthetic plot set against synthetic music.

Paul plays a scruffy rock star beating out a feckless existence in an L.A. bar. He's secretly good-hearted. He's really talented. He's sexy. He's sleeveless. He's unshaven.

Schoelen is the club's new waitress. She's secretly rich. She's very sweet. She has untapped musical talent. She has the character to stand up for her new friends despite class differences. And worst of all, she has spunk. I hate spunk.

The screenplay, by Robert Elliot, maneuvers these two around a variety of machined crises, none of which is credible, and punctuates the banality with banal synthopop rock. If I didn't know better, I'd say the "rock star" Paul's Rick is modeled on isn't Springsteen so much as Eddie of "Eddie and the Cruisers." Or, quite possibly, Mr. Ed.

The film's lack of budget constrains it grotesquely. It features three interiors (a club and two apartments) and one exterior (outside the club from two angles.) The club, where 97 percent of the action takes place, grows wearisome fast, particularly as director Joel Bender shunts plot fragments from "Dirty Dancing" through it including the frame up, the jealous boyfriend, the intolerant father, the show-biz contest, the gruff but lovable owner.

Schoelen, who was so impressive in "The Stepfather," is the best thing about the movie, as she is in all the low-rent projects she finds herself in these days. Maybe she'll get luckier the next time out.

'Rich Girl'

Starring Jill Schoelen and Don Michael Paul.

Directed by Joel Bender.

Released by Studio Three Film Corporation.

Rated R.

*

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