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By all rights this should have been yet another R-rated sex and violence
flick about a piece of immoral jailbait having her wicked way with everyone
around her, but the directing and acting are good enough to make it more
effective than most, even touching. The atmosphere is almost haunting, and
the relationships between the characters (especially the two teenage girl
leads) are well developed enough to hold your interest.
Sara Gilbert gives the film a sympathetic center, she's excellent as a bright, likeable high school girl who finds herself in far over her head when she befriends poor little bad girl Drew Barrymore. Her misery and frustration as Barrymore takes over her family, her life, even her dog are moving enough to make the flimsy story work. Barrymore wasn't much of an actress at that age (still isn't, in my opinion), but she's very effective nonetheless. She doesn't need to act, she needs to do what she does, look sexy. Really, really sexy, like it's all she ever thinks about. Cheryl Ladd also does surprisingly well as Gilbert's slowly dying mother.
The movie also has moments of an almost haunting quality. The score is lovely, alternately passionate and strangely moody, and gives the film enough emotional intensity to make me forgive its many flaws. Even Barrymore kissing Gilbert. Eeeew.
Drew Barrymore turns in the most memorable performance of her career, in this strange, beautifully filmed tale of betrayal and teenage alienation. The introverted Sylvie meets the mysterious Ivy at the posh private school they attend, and become fast friends. It seems Sylvie idolizes Ivy just a bit, for her beauty and fearless, outgoing style. And Ivy, coming from a broken home, begins to envy Sylvies life, as Sylvie lives in a gorgeous home, and has a mother and father who care deeply for her. The tale is more sad than suspenseful, and this is more of a teen drama than 'an erotic thriller. The friendship that develops between the two girls is done in a very believable way, and it is sad when things begin to go wrong, and it becomes clear that Ivy has some deep emotional problems. The plot here is not so original, but so many elements elevate 'Poison ivy' above other films of this type. The acting all around is impressive; Cheryl Ladd is beautifully fragile as the sick, bed-ridden mother, and the relationship that develops between her and her daughter's mysterious friend is touching, as the two look very similar. It is obvious that when 'Georgie' looks at 'Ivy' she is reminded of her own youth, and her own days of being wild. And this is how the connection develops between the mother and Ivy. The daughter unfortunately is unable to connect with her own mom, as the two are so different. 'Gerorgie,' like Ivy, is blond, pretty, and glamorous, while Sylvie is mousy-haired and wears glasses. This causes immediate, but subtle tension between the two girls from the outset. Tom Skeritt is perfect as the brooding, wounded husband, who feels abandoned by a wife who has given up on living. This fact makes him easy prey for Ivy as well, whose desire to become a part of this family soon escalates to a disturbing level. Sara Gilbert is likewise perfectly cast as the shy but intelligent Sylvie. So much attention is paid to small details, which is so important with films of this sort. Ivy's tattoo, which turns out to be fake, and the Egyptian eye that is shaved into Sylvie's scalp, gives these characters depth. The film possesses a strong, atmospheric tone, and Ivy's strange, childlike sexuality has an almost hypnotic quality about it. The background music as well, is lush, and darkly romantic. And many scenes are absolute eye candy, and truly erotic. Among them, the scene where Tom Skeritt's character 'takes' Ivy on the hood of his Mercedes in the forest, while the rain pours down and that haunting melody plays; classic. And the film succeeds in being erotic without being very graphic, and this is not easy to accomplish. I was lucky to see this in the theater, and was happy to find the DVD, which contains both versions of the movie, the theatrical, 'R' rated version, and a slightly more graphic unrated edition. There were some sequels to this, that were released straight to video, and are, not surprisingly, terrible exploitation trash that has nothing to do with this legitimate film. 'Poison Ivy" is an above average 'teen angst' film, and deals effectively with it's subject matter. Recommended, especially for fans of Drew Barrymore. Fans who are only familiar with her more recent films will be amazed at how great she is, and how amazing she looks, in this very special film.
I really enjoyed the two main characters in the movie - Cooper ( played by Sara Gilbert ) and Ivy ( Drew Barrymore is brilliant in this character ). The film focuses on there friendship and feeling alone as a teenager. I really liked the dialogue between the characters. Especially when Ivy meets Cooper's mother ( played by Cheryl Ladd ) and talks about her own mother and how she flinched every time she touched her and how she died long before she really did. It's just great. Ivy's loneliness soon starts to evaporate as she gains a mother in Chery Ladd, a friend in Sara Gilbert, but then she sets her eyes on Cooper's father ( played by Tom Skerrit ) and wants him in an intimate way. And this is where the movie starts to get erotic as she seduces her best friend's father. But Cooper is starting to see Ivy's evil intentions .....
Nabokov's Lolita used the affections of a fawning, elderly man (her stepfather) for her own purposes--which never amounted to much more than sex and cash. It only figures that today's Lolita would be dressed to kill, literally. As Drew Barrymore plays her here, she's a sexy homicidal figure with maternal delusions. "Poison Ivy" begins rather endearingly, with high school outcast Sara Gilbert (looking like the modern equivalent of a teen beatnik) befriended by a striking blonde student with lots o' leg and a fake tattoo. This wanton woman-child has no name; Gilbert calls her "Ivy" and Barrymore likes that ("It gives me the opportunity to start over," she says). The tone of the picture shifts however before the midway point, with Ivy infiltrating Gilbert's dysfunctional household and seducing dad Tom Skerritt (doing terrific work). Gilbert's narration--and the surreal jumble which becomes the hectic climax--is rather off-putting, but there's a great deal of worth in Barrymore's solid performance. The film is stylish on a low-budget and is actually steamier than "Nine 1/2 Weeks". Yet, it's really two different pictures struggling within the context of one. A stronger screenplay might've brought the two halves together, although, as the director, Katt Shea Ruben manages to come up with a commendable amount of incidents both amusing and titillating. ** from ****
It would be the easiest thing to simply dismiss this film as yet another sleazy erotic melodrama (which it undoubtedly is), but the result is too intriguing, and too offbeat, to be ignored. Although this film will disappoint those who are expecting a well-made thriller or even an explicitly erotic movie because it's tame and practically suspenseless, it has an air of weirdness and morbidity that places it slightly above most of the run-of-the-mill entries in this genre. The performances are mostly one-note but convincing enough. Visually, it's a grim, underproduced film, but it does have a "special" atmosphere.
Poison Ivy is a good teenage drama movie, starring Sara Gilbert and Drew Barrymore, who both give great performances here. Barrymore plays Ivy a young and wild teen, who lives with her aunt. When she ends up moving in with her friend, Sylvie played by Gilbert, Ivy slowly and seductively works her way into the lives of her 'new' family. The movie has some weird moments, but most of the time it's good and keeps you interested in the plot and the characters.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is primarily a vehicle to exploit the generalized sensuality of
Miss Drew Barrymore, an excellent actress and heir of a great acting
family. Drew, who was so cuddily in E.T. when she was six years old or
so, is now oh so cuddily and then some to a more varied audience. Here,
as a scheming little poor girl, she seduces dad, mom and daughter (to
varying degrees) before slipping into murder. She is sexy, trashy and
Sara Gilbert (from TV's 'Rosanne') plays the dweeby poor little rich girl daughter with veracity and some wit. Tom Skerrit is the father without a clue; and Cheryl Ladd, looking rather fetching despite the role, is the dreary mother. Yes, old TV stars can find work! Best scene is when Sara and Drew go to the tattoo parlor. Drew makes a few ugly remarks causing Sara to get up to leave, but Drew draws her back tenderly (to pay the tab), pulls her close, and kisses her. When the beer-bellied tattoo guy tries to join in, the girls give him an 'ugh!' and split.
The slow-motion seduction of Skerrit seems a little drawn out. Even after Drew kisses and licks his cut hand, Skerrit just looks off into space in befuddlement. Later things heat up though, and then take a kinky turn when Mom, through a drug and alcohol haze, dimly notices Drew wearing her sexy dress and doing some love numbers on her husband.
Second best scene is after the funeral with Drew sleeping in Cheryl Ladd's bed where she is discovered by Sara. Drew urges her friend, the distraught daughter, to join her. Sara does. 'Pretend I'm your mother,' Drew says. Sara confides to her that what she couldn't say to her mother was 'I love you.' Drew kisses her head and holds her close.
What was intended here was a psychological study of a teenaged girl without much of a home or much of a family who is drawn to adopt her own family among those of her friends, and in doing so assumes the role of the mother, in toto. What we get is a semi-pornographic focus on a very sexy screen darling, a ridiculous murder, and an even more ridiculous finale, the details of which I will skip.
(Note: Over 500 of my movie reviews are now available in my book "Cut to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote!" Get it at Amazon!)
Poison Ivy simply tells the story of a young girl who definitely gets
what she wants and even resorts to murder if needs be. All four of the
main characters you can develop some feeling for, and you could even
feel sorry for Drew Barrymore's Ivy, although I did feel as if
sometimes some characters were simply failing to believe what was
pretty obvious to everyone else.
An 18-year-old Barrymore shines in this role, and Cheryl Ladd is also very convincing.
A young Leonardo Di Caprio makes an appearance in a perfectly watchable (but also rather short) film, with good direction from the relatively unknown Katt Shea.
Drew Barrymore plays Ivy a Lolita-like teen that gradually moves in with a
shy reclusive classmate Sylvie(Sara Gilbert)and the presence of the
streetwise Ivy starts a chain reaction of mixed emotions. Sylvie's self
destructive mother(Cheryl Ladd)is jealous of her husband's(Tom Skerritt)
reaction to Ivy's seductive ways. Soon he is hooked and can't get enough of
the perverse teen. Questions arise concerning the death of Sylvie's mother
about the time Sylvie realizes what is going on between her father and Ivy.
My favorite scene is the sultry love making in the rain on the car hood. It is hard to tell who is seducing who. The 17 year old Barrymore is hypnotic. I couldn't take my eyes off of her. Kudos to Katt Shea for directing this erotic thriller. Note: Look for a young Leonardo DiCaprio.
A teenage Drew Barrymore lends her undeniable sex appeal to this
otherwise unremarkable erotic thriller which uses the well-worn 'family
unit threatened by a wicked interloper' plot device as an excuse to
deliver loads of cheap titillation. Drew plays a sultry blonde with a
troubled past who befriends socially awkward high school student Sylvie
Cooper (Sara Gilbert) in order to scheme her way into her family.
Sylvie is captivated by her new BFF's wild streak, unaware that the
luscious lolita has designs on her father and will kill to get what she
Although, on the surface, this film gives the impression of being a stylish, sexy and sophisticated thriller, with an almost noir-ish atmosphere and a cool slow-burn approach, when all is said and done, this is trash exploitation, pure and simple, as one might expect from the director of Stripped to Kill and Stripped to Kill II: Live Girls.
Not that I'm complaining, mind, since I'm a big fan of the lovely Miss Barrymore, and trashy exploitation in general, and this film gave me plenty to smile about, namely miss Barrymore in a series of very sexy get-ups.
6 out of 10, bumped up to 7 for all the gratuitous Drew!
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