Track 29 begins with the image of Gary Oldman appearing out of thin air - he appears by the side of the road with his thumb stretched out. Then after a while he screams, like a banshee, 'Mummmmmmeeeeeeeee!' Er, okay. We've got a weird one here.
One of the first hints that the film gives you about the nature of Oldman's character, aside from his entrance, is some dialogue on a television show. We hear, as Theresa Russell works out, that two or more things can apparently inhabit the same area at the same time, co-existing in parallel dimensions. O-kay. And then later, after Oldman has convinced Russell that he's her son, a son that she gave up at birth, we find out that other people can't even see him. Right, so she's mad and all of this is in her head. Fine.
But with this gimmick do we learn anything of interest about Russell's character? Do we feel the pain she felt at having to give up her child? No, not really. The film is nothing more than a silly freak show, a film where young men act like retarded children, where old men act like pathetic perverts and where southern belles toss their hair about like crazy. This film tells you next to nothing about the human condition.
One of the most amazing things about Track 29 is Oldman's performance. He plays Martin like a hyperactive manchild. He screams and he spazzes and he almost foams at the mouth. There's no restraint, no subtlety. He chews the scenery like crazy. But even though it's incredibly over the top, it is amusing. At one point he even takes Russell's diaphragm and puts it to his mouth and begins to talk through it, using it as a second mouth. These silly moments are the only pleasure that's to be found in this dire film.
And it's always amusing whenever Oldman begins screaming or talking like an over-sized child (which he does with great regularity). He berates his mother, comes on to her and at one point even blows a raspberry at a painting of Lloyd after drawing a moustache on it. But there's a scene in a restaurant where he begins pouting that is even funnier. He says, 'You never kissed it better.' 'Kissed what better?' his mother replies. There's a brief pause, and you know Martin is thinking about his penis, and he then says, 'My knee'. It would be queasy if it wasn't so ridiculous.
But Martin isn't the only ridiculous character. Christopher Lloyd plays Dr Henry Henry, Russell's husband. He's a man who spends all his spare time playing with toy trains and who likes to be spanked by one of his nurses. And to make it worse, the nurse is played by Sandra Bernhard. Even Satan himself couldn't have created a more hideous image than Bernhard spanking Lloyd's exposed buttocks with red rubber gloves as both of them mug the camera with orgasmic glee. It's the sort of sight that makes you want to pour disinfectant into your eyes to remove the stain.
However, Lloyd's character is a sidenote. Russell and Oldman are the focus. And what horrible event could have screwed Russell up to such an extent that she's making up people in her own head? Well, when she was a kid she was shagged in the bushes by a tattooed carnie, a carnie who looks exactly like her son. Okay, so that would mess you up pretty bad, but please, there must be a better actress than Russell to communicate the pain of the event. When she talks or thinks about it, all she can do is toss her hair, clench her fists and squeal through gritted teeth. There's no depth to her character at all.
But the film does try and provide some complexity by not providing a clear answer as to whether this was rape or just rough sex - she says no as the carnie rips her clothes off, but once he's on her she begins shouting yes and encouraging him. And the entire flashback occurs as her 'son' squeals with excitement as he asks her to tell more of the story. But the film never adequately explores Russell's emotions. She's screwed up and that's that.
And you can feel the film running out of ideas. At the end the film suddenly tries to turn into a thriller. Ooh, look at Martin destroy Henry's train set like Godzilla. Ooh, where did Martin go? Oh, there he is, he's jumped naked onto Henry and is stabbing him to death. Great. Oh, but seeing as Martin doesn't really exist, it never really happened...did it?
The end of the film sees Russell all spruced up and apparently ready to get own with a new life, one without Henry. But even though we continually hear him call her, the question still remains as to whether he's still alive - one of the final images is of blood spreading over the surface of the ceiling. Yes Martin didn't kill Henry, but prior to this death scene we see Russell walking up the stairs with a knife. Maybe she killed him and maybe the voice of Henry is in her head. But what does it matter? Either way the film says the same thing: isn't it terrible when you get nailed by a tattooed carnie as a kid and your child is taken away, and isn't it awful when your husband plays with toy trains and you aren't sexually compatible. Yes, terrible fates both of them, but both made terribly uninteresting by horrible acting and direction.
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