shelter island

shelter island

2004
Directed: Geoff Schaff
Written: Paul Corvino

This review should be subtitled "how low can you go?" Yes, Ally Sheedy, I'm looking at you. I still can't believe Sheedy didn't read this script, blink a few times and then make sure it was put in the correct recycling bin. At least then something good would have come of it.

Instead, she says "sure, bring it on!" and makes a film of cheap shocks where the only thing truly shocking about it is the knowledge that every single person involved with the project can, and has, done better.

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Production values do not make a film. Geoff Schaff could make a black and white film that actually shows realistic lesbians using a shaky handicam and bad lighting and I'd cheer for him. As it is the pretty sheen the film has just serves to emphasise the fact that looking nice is the only thing this movie has going for it.

To all the detractors who claim that The L Word is simply lesbian soap opera designed to titillate straight men, I give you exhibit A, Shelter Island. These characters have no motivation other than to help the male audience get off on some juicy faux-lesbian content while waiting for some mediocre thrills in the form of the characters gradually attempting to knock each other off (and even that not very well).

Ally Sheedy plays Lou Delamere, a golf pro and motivational speaker, who is viciously mugged while out jogging one day. She and her long time lover, Alex (Patsy Kensit) decide to spend some time recuperating from the shock at their cottage on Shelter Island. It's isolated, private and should be the perfect setting for a decent thriller. Of course, if I were ever mugged and beaten half to death I would make sure I never went anywhere with anyone alone until I was feeling better. But that's just me, and I've seen way too many movies.

It's right about here that the director starts making his stars show a bit of skin. After all, we need to set up that these women are lesbians. Yep, they're gay. They like each other, quite a bit. Or at least their easily-spotted body doubles do.

On a stormy night (groan!) a stranger appears at their doorway, a soaked and pathetic Stephen Baldwin. For some reason his presence seems to cause tension between the women. Oh, so they're not really lesbians after all? All that setup wasted. Damn. I mean, if all it takes is some semi-hunky-but-his-best-years-are-behind-him drifter to turn lesbians into straight women again, why are there any lesbians left in the world anyway? Surely we could have all been straightened out by now with a bit of concerted effort? Just lock us all up together, drop a man in from a high height and watch us all tear each other to pieces to get to him. Yawn.

Of course, since it's already been foreshadowed by Lou's passionate speech about never taking anything at face value, we know that this stranger is not who he appears to be. And neither is the sadistic sheriff who keeps poking his nose in. Or that other woman who appears out of nowhere. Wait, isn't this supposed to be a private cottage?

I digress, but it's hard to watch this movie without letting your mind wander just a little bit. For example, I couldn't help musing about how often this pathetic excuse for a script contrives to get all the members of the cast naked. That might have been vaguely interesting, but since all the sexual tension revolves around how Stephen Baldwin's bare butt can magically turn lesbians straight again, it gets tiresome pretty quickly.

The second and third acts contain plot twist after plot twist, but up until the very end they're all fairly well telegraphed in advance so it's easy to feel like you're always one step ahead. That's about the only comforting feeling we have until the final surprise is revealed. It truly is surprising because nothing in this lame film could possibly have prepared us for what happens. It's so ludicrous, there's no logical reason why things happen the way they do. On top of all that, the film has more resurrections than Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

The high point for me was how pissed off Ally Sheedy looked at the attempt to bump her off and hide her not-quite-dead body in the marshland. She looked truly put out at the inconvenience. I mean, after all she'd been through already, that was just rude. Payback is a bitch.

You've seen it all before, those late night crappy thrillers that never purport to be anything else. Most of them though are pretty harmless, since they aren't also full of lesbian sterotypes and crass situations designed purely to titillate the most purile of male lesbian fantasies. That's where this film sinks to new lows. Sorry guys, but the filmmakers are even selling you short here. There's is nothing to take away from this experience but a promise to yourself (whether you're male or female) that you'll never sit through anything like it ever again. Shelter Island gives B movies a bad name.

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