Masochistic Masterpiece: Rhinestone

16 Jul

Rhinestone

Director: Bob Clark

Writer: Sylvester Stallone | Phil Alden Robinson

Staring: Dolly Parton & Sylvester Stallone

Year: 1984

HCK! Rating: “I Fell In A Pile Of You And Got Love All Over Me”

Favorite Quote: “You’d have thought we all got together and decided how we could fastest ruin our careers.” – Sylvester Stallone when asked about the film years later

Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox

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Where to start on this glorious display of raw artistic brilliance. Sylvester Stallone took one of Phil Alden Robinson‘s (Field of Dreams | Sneakers)  scripts and dry humped it with boxing shorts while watching Dallas reruns. Stallone butchered it so badly, Robinson fought to have his name removed before the studio persuaded him that the twenty-eight million dollar budget and the “caliber’ of cast guaranteed it would be foolish not to have his name attached to the final product.

The concept is simple; Dolly Parton is locked into a singing contract with some sleazeball sexually-condescending bar owner and may have finally figured a way out of it. The bar is known for ripping any new singer apart who attempts the stage leaving Parton to carry the weight of being the only talent to fill the place; our first taste of this comes by a garbage song from some dude with an acoustic guitar and a scar on his face who manages to bring the crowd to the edge of fanaticism before hitting the bridge where the death of his girlfriend Loretta is revealed to have been at the fatalistic hands rolling over her with a tractor, blood was everywhere, the screams curdling. I highly doubt the experience, had it been real, would have been any less horrifying than any individual performance in Rhinestone…. musical or otherwise. I guess Parton does an alright job, I mean she plays “Dolly” the way she has since day one so an avid fan of hers probably really enjoys this, maybe even holds it at some level of esteem.

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Parton through two minutes of constant advances from the owner places a bet that in two weeks time she can turn anyone into a country music star: she wins she gets out of her dead-end contract he holds over her, she loses she finally sleeps with the sleezy manager. A fairly respectable wager for the 80’s I’d say. Taxi driver Nick Martinelli (Stallone) wrecks his car while distracted by Parton’s sexual magnetism as she stands outside searching for her bet’s suitor.  We’ve all seen fifty movies with the same premise; person is reluctant, through some sort of chemistry undertone the anti-hero buys into the cause, stuff happens, walls are climbed, inner strength is found, demons are defeated, the past is stripped away, the future becomes the now, ultimately destroying every last expectation as they rise to the occasion.

The truth is if they stuck with the concept this could have been watchable, it’s not like Parton is awful, and we already know what to expect with Stallone, in theory this experiment could have worked. This is where Sly’s reworking of the script takes the spotlight. Who in the hell reads lines like “I hear it’s harder to get a song past you than a donkey pass the dawn” (whatever the hell that means) and feels warmly about jumping on board with the project? Yet here awaits 111 minutes of raw, heavily cut, evidence. Stallone’s inability to remotely carry a tune is so far down the list of flaws that I’ll argue it could have been overlooked if it were the only issue to be found. Actually that last sentence makes me full of shit, Rhinestone is totally irredeemable. There are very few terrible movies which make one enjoy having sat through them, I’ve voluntarily watched it six times and not a single second felt wasted.

Here’s my attempt at a quick rundown of all the experiences which capture one’s heart the first time you press play;

No two minutes passes without either some cast member blatantly staring at Parton’s cleavage or some mind-numbing sexual advance is made towards her.

Stallone’s character refers to himself in third person roughly a hundred and seventeen times.

Lines such as “you’re one game rooster but country you ain’t,” “ain’t gotta go nowhere to learn nothin,” “….as funny as a rubber crutch in a hospital ward” are delivered with such politician’s conviction you may even find some of them drift past you unnoticed. This is the real strength of my recommending everyone watch Rhinestone at least four times. Ya know, really get it close to your chest. I’d tell you to focus heavily on Tim Thomerson but he does a good enough job chewing the camera with false joviality where you could be half-asleep on pain killers and he would still find a way of drawing a Robert Downey Jr. eye-roll out of you.

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Kids are beating each other up in Brooklyn as I type this to get their over-privileged hands on Sly’s outfits from this movie; everything is skin tight and nonsensical…. you’ll just have to see for yourself, no words exist to do the clothing justice.

Dolly Parton takes Stallone down to her hometown in Tennessee for two weeks because “if you’re gonna sing country, you gotta walk it, talk it, breathe it, sleep it.” While there she teaches him all the essentials of being a Cowboy; always mix ones peas in their mashed potatoes and to walk like a respectable cowboy one needs only pretend as if they have a real bad case of jock itch.

-Dolly Parton landed two of her highest grossing singles from this soundtrack as well as had to make the rounds of talk-shows singing songs from this movie to promote it. I’d love to talk to Dolly about just how dark of a time it was for her during this phase of her life; Best Little Whorehouse in Texas Rhinestone is not.

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If only once in your life you find yourself wishing for the presence of auto-tune it will be during this movie. Good god, the nerves and embarrassment are all over Stallone’s face, his lack of ability engulfs everyone involved and yet this train wreck just stays right on track. His first two songs equate to about a minute and a half of screaming inaudibly like Scott Stap singing Misfits covers while being eaten alive by fire ants… His take on Little Richard is borderline blasphemous. (millennials take note, this is how the world was before computers made everything shiny with universal quality).

The Razzies nominated Rhinestone eight times in seven categories.

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Verdict: If you play music, pretend to love music, or have ever heard of music, you have got to see this movie. It is unreal. Not to mention it grossed nearly twenty-two million in the box office. Wrap your brain around that. I mean Gigli sucks and had a big budget but they barely let that one sit in theaters before pulling it. This one was a major release that people paid to see.

Twentieth Century Fox has re-released this enough times (I found both of my copies at Goodwill) that tracking down a copy takes only the motivation. I’ve seen the soundtrack only once in the wild, it was on vinyl at some vintage shop on north loop asking $20.

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