`Sugar Town' never gets up to speed on the rocky road to rock stardom

October 08, 1999|By Ann Hornaday | Ann Hornaday,SUN FILM CRITIC

Equal parts "All About Eve" and "Short Cuts," "Sugar Town" is a round-robin of vignettes set in the cutthroat world of rock and roll, where everyone's karma seems to be taking a perpetual wrong turn.

Jade Gordon plays Gwen, whom filmgoers meet while she's smoking a joint and writing herself a "to do" list, one that includes getting to know David Letterman, going to the Grammys ("With Tony Bennett. Or Tony Curtis. No, wait, Stevie Nicks!") and generally becoming fabulously famous. (The list will be familiar to anyone who's had the misfortune of seeing "Kurt and Courtney," a documentary about Courtney Love that unearthed a similar early-career manifesto.)

Jade will do anything to get to the top, including cleaning the house of a production designer named Liz (Ally Sheedy), whose best friend is over-the-hill ingenue Eva (Rosanna Arquette), who is married to former and hopefully future rock star Clive (Duran Duran's John Taylor).

How all these people fit together -- and more important, how their paths cross with hippie-dippy couple Kate and Carl (Lucinda Jenney and X's John Doe) is for filmgoers to see for themselves, that is if they want to be diverted from an only fitfully engaging L.A. soap opera.

Sheedy turns in a touchingly prickly performance (she doesn't seem to walk through the world these days so much as jut), and Taylor, Doe, Michael Des Barres and bassist Larry Klein are enjoyable in sometimes wittily self-referential roles. Best line: Arquette bemoaning her inability to conceive: "After 35 your cervix collapses like a fallen star." If only the rest of "Sugar Town" were as poetically resonant.

`Sugar Town'

Starring Jade Gordon, Ally Sheedy, Rosanna Arquette, John Taylor, Michael Des Barres, Beverly D'Angelo

Directed by Allison Anders and Kurt Voss

Rated R (strong language, some drug content and sexuality)

Running time 90 minutes

Released by USA Films

Sun score *1/2

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