4.05.2011

"Oh, And One More Thing..."

SUCKER PUNCH (2011)
Images snagged from listal.
Yeah. I was psyched for this one. I bought my tickets, saw it opening night, I was there bouncing up and down with untamed excitement like everyone else. And, like everyone else, I was ultimately disappointed with the movie. It was confusing as fuck. I thought the prostitution bit was reality, not in Baby Doll's head, I was wrong, bite me. I didn't like the fact that the entire movie took place in Baby Doll's head, especially when it didn't really have much grounding in reality and a forced prostitution ring is kind of a crap alternate reality to escape to (unless you're into that kind of thing). Except for the two sisters, none of the characters had any chemistry, what so ever, and most didn't even have a personality. Which was too bad, because they looked like cool characters. But you know what? That's all general consensus at this point. Everyone agrees this is not a movie for the sober brain. And yes, I'm sad, I'm disappointed, it looked like it could've been really fucking epic if only someone had said, "Hey, Snyder, we need a bit of a plot here". But I'm over it. The thing is, when you get passed all the whining and groaning, it's a fun badass fucking movie. Pray tell, M., what makes this movie so badass? Well, since you asked...

WEIRD FIRE NINJAS
They're probably the least impressive of the alternate world monsters, but that's the way they're supposed to be. After all, this is our hook, our "training session", this is what draws us into Baby Doll's badass fucking mind. And the fight scene is not to be sneered at. She jumps right into it, automatically destroying anything that crosses her path. And maybe she gets knocked around a couple times, because you know, this is her first big fight and all, but it doesn't even register since she somehow knows how to wield that sword like a BAMF anyway. 

ZOMBIE ROBOT NAZIS
By far, my favorite "challenge" in Baby Doll's world. They're corpses that work on some clockwork steam thing that I don't understand, but it's badass and steam punk at its finest. I could literally spend the entire movie in this one challenge. It has everything I need to exist--nazis, zombies/robot things, elaborate nazi missions. It's. So. Fucking. Cool. THIS is why Baby Doll's brain is so amazing. The worlds she goes into, even for a brief moment in time, are ridiculously elaborate. Everything is so well imagined and thought out it's hard not to get completely caught up in the awesome that is her imagination. 

ORCS ARE BACK
So we're shamelessly digging into Lord of The Rings territory here, but hey. I missed those ugly bastards just as much as the next moviegoer. And we have a cool dragon fight, so. I'm not really complaining. Though I would've thought Mama Dragon would...you know. Kinda protect her Baby Dragon a little better? Instead of just getting revenge once all was said and done. But hey. We get a cool airplane fight out of it, so I'm there. 

GLASS ROBOTS WITH GUNS
Life is not easy for glass robots. They shatter every time a fat lady sings. But as soon as you put guns in their hands, whoa. Look out. And this is what I'm talking about, design wise--the world is amazing. Not only are they glass robots, but they're also on this intricate interplanetary train ride, and everything is set up perfectly in tune with the world, down to their guns which resemble those fake plastic things you can no longer buy at kid's stores (thanks a bunch, fun-hating Bloomberg). 

THIS GUY
Scott Glenn. You are badass. And I want you to be my power animal. That is all. 

THE SCORE
What can I say? It kept me hooked in the movie. It's definitely going to be an "acquired taste" soundtrack, but it wasn't just "background music" to keep the movie going. The film definitely wielded the music with just as strong of a hand as it did the visuals, and the two worked together to keep adrenaline pumping high at all times. And you know what? It worked. For the last half of the movie, my heart was pounding and I went into a testosterone high overdose. True story.

BITCHES DONE DIED
So for the first half of this movie I was like "Wow, this is some cutesy teenbopper movie now?". I mean, we had the rabbit face on the machine, which I get, and we were bleeping out every curse with a "Mother--!", which I can understand as well. But Baby Doll was just too perfect, and I wasn't buying it. Everyone was in love with her, she just felt like a bit of a Mary Sue. And then bitches started dying. Rabidly. And suddenly I was invested. I mean, halfway through the movie, and suddenly this movie that was cute with a gritty edge turned really fucking heavy. Technically, I shouldn't have been so gutted when these personality-less characters died, and maybe it was just because they all had cool names, but I still felt it. When these strong, powerful girls sacrificed themselves, or were even killed mercilessly by some dick who had an inferiority complex. The point is, we graduated from fluffy cotton candy chick flick to a serious epic movie where lives were at stake. The shift was sudden, it was dramatic, and it made me respect the movie all the more for it. 

I FELT LIKE A PEDOPHILE
I don't know how old Emily Browning is. Early 20s or something. So technically, since she's no longer jailbait, so I shouldn't feel this bad for having the hots for her character. But when you call the character Baby Doll, dress her up in little cute outfits fit for a slutty teaparty, yeah. But Baby Doll is so hot, I'm really not complaining. 

In short? I know everyone said this movie sucked. But go see it. Enjoy it. Maybe take a flask with you to get through the plotty bits. Nonetheless, it's a fun fucking movie, it's action packed, it has an amazing world and heroic young female characters (now we'll just wait idly for Hanna for a real badass female heroine). It's worth a view on a big screen. And you want to know the best part about it? It's not in motherfucking 3D. Take THAT!

29 comments:

  1. Cool review. I still haven't gotten to see this yet, but the reviews are really hating it. Nice to see you giving it a fair shake. SOme honest kickassery can make up for many things. THanks for the look!

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  2. Thanks! It's definitely not the most intellectually stimulating movie of the decade, but hell. It's for the raccoon-minded people in the audience who go "Oooh, shiny", and I happen to be one of them. Great visually, even though it lacked it much else. If you go see it (on the big screen, definitely) without expectations? I've got a feeling you'll get a lot more bang for your buck. It was just the disappointment factor which sunk it far into the dirt.

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  3. A fantastic and thorough review! Terrific job breaking down all the disparate elements.

    As a visual extravagance layered by a deluge of slo-mo sequences and other stylistic Snyder trademarks, the film works. The narrative or lack of a coherent plot is its biggest detriment (as you argue), though some have claimed to infer an allegorical meaning out of Baby Doll's character. Such inferences, however, are farfetched given most who watched it did not experience the same sensation.

    And you're absolutely right. Hanna should be super badass! I think that film will renew our confidence in kick-ass heroines!

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  4. Ahahaha! I'm pretty sure we were reading each other's Sucker Punch reviews simultaneously. Ahem. In any case, thanks for the comment!

    I'll agree there--I think whatever "higher meaning" you can try to stuff in this movie miiiight work...except for the fact that the movie just doesn't seem to give a shit about anything except being a cool movie. Which I respect. Entirely. IF it had done it well, which sadly it didn't.

    I really can't wait for Hanna! After being thoroughly disappointed with the lack of personality in the female characters, I'm looking for a good, young female heroine. Is it so much to ask for? Apparently it is. I'm just praying Hanna isn't another one I hype myself up for only to be let down again!

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  5. Chicks with guns, swords and ninja skills will hook me every time. I'll suffer the WTF moments to watch some serious ass-kicking. And Scott Glenn, too. Hell to the yeah. Can't wait to take my friend's daughter to see Hanna.

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  6. You know what? That was my thought exactly. It could be worse--there could be no chicks with guns, swords, and ninja skills. And I am SO waiting for your little person's review of Hanna. Bring it!

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  7. Nice review!

    I really enjoyed SUCKER PUNCH. I don't think it's meant to taken too seriously, but goddamn! the action sequences were LEGIT. I really like the soundtrack, too. I never thought BJORK would be used in a battle scene!

    My favorite character was SWEET PEA, even though I was very bummed that she never used that Aragorn-esque sword she carried on her back.

    I enjoyed reading your review! It's nice to know that I'm not alone in believing that SUCKER PUNCH was f***ing epic.

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  8. Thanks! I agree with you there--no matter what anyone can say about Sucker Punch, the action scenes were seriously legit. And who doesn't like a Bjork style battle sequence?

    Sweet Pea was definitely awesome--and that Aragorn-esque sword is such a cock tease. Why put it there if she's not going to be kickass with it???

    I'm glad you enjoyed it! I definitely think that in the haze of badmouthing Sucker Punch, a lot of critics lost sight of the fact that it was...well. BAMF.

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  9. Oh come on, baby. I know you have a little girl fetish. Don't even.

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  10. Nice review, Morgie! Pretty much my thoughts exactly! I was definitely disappointed by the crappy characterization and weird plot stuff (seriously, forced prostitution = escape from shittiness how exactly?) but there were some really fun elements and you highlighted them all! I definitely loved the action, the soundtrack and Scott Glen! The version of White Rabbit is awesome!

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  11. Thanks, babe! I agree--characterwise and plot wise, it was sucktastic. Which is SO disappointing because it could've been awesome! But the awesome action sequences cannot be ignored, and it was lovely eye candy, if nothing else. Ear candy too! Now I have to go check out their White Rabbit. <333!

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  12. he he he ... a good review! And I loved the picture illustrations ;) Wisely chosen.

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  13. Thanks! The movie was such eyecandy, I figured the review had to be much of the same.

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  14. I only saw this quite recently and avoided reviews until I'd made my own mind up. The action is all stunning and I really enjoyed it. It's just that the characters had, well, no character so I didn't give a shit about any of them. I think this really took a lot away from the film. It could have been epic. Bloody good fun though.

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  15. That's the plus and minus to not reading reviews. I did the exact same thing as you did--went in with a clean slate--and then kinda wished I'd read the reviews before hand. At least if I'd KNOWN it was going to be an extraordinarily disappointing movie, I would have probably enjoyed it more before I wouldn't have my hopes set so high.

    So I'm definitely agreeing with you, I think the characters were ridiculously flat. I just tried to focus on the positives in this review since I'd read so many since seeing the movie that just straight up bashed it completely. And while it's disappointing and falls short where it could've been fucking awesome...like you said. Bloody good fun.

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  16. To me, this film is by far the best I've seen this year, and one of my all time favorites too. I'll discuss some points you raised - flat characters, lack of plot, etc. Forgive for the overly long post, but I like this film so much, and I like discussing it. And because it's so long, I'll have to split it in several parts.

    (I've discussed this already in other places, so I'll just copy/paste some bits.)

    This story, as I saw it, was about redemption. Babydoll, a girl who is abused by her stepfather loses her mother and her little sister in a single night, and is committed to the Asylum. There, she meets the other girls, but the situation is not much different - the orderlies abuse the patients (strongly hinted to be sexual). That is why the alternate reality is in fact a Brothel - it's why the girls actually see the Asylum.

    They form a plan to escape, with Babydoll having only days before the lobotomy. Note, in the fantasy world, the lobotomy is referred to as 'virginity', to be lost courtesy of the High Roller (the lobotomy doctor in real life). This is because her body may not be 'pure' anymore (because of her stepfather's abuse), but her mind IS pure.

    As the story progresses, Babydoll's physical escape transforms into something else. Think about it: on the outside, nothing awaits her. Her family is dead, and she can only go back to her abusive stepfather. Far from a prosperous future. Here's where the redemption comes into play - Babydoll's obviously blaming herself for the demise of her sister, and with nothing outside these walls, she wants to free herself by enabling Sweet Pea ("the strongest of them all, and the only one who stands a chance out there") to run away. This will be Babydoll's release. After she's accomplished that, she welcomes the very thing she was trying to evade - the lobotomy, because it will make her forget everything bad. The lobotomy in fact becomes her way to 'paradise'.

    Now, keep in mind that you see the film from the perspective of Babydoll - and Babydoll is a mentally unstable person, therefore the distinction between reality and fantasy is never clear, because it just cannot be clear. It is obvious, however, that what happens in the real world (Asylum) is mirrored in the Brothel in a different and metaphorical context. As an example, Blondie and Amber weren't really shot by Blue - they probably underwent a lobotomy as well, which is further enforced by Dr. Vera Gorski in real life not mentioning any homicides, and the fact the girls die when High Roller was there (aka the doctor).

    (note: This is in fact hinted very strongly at the beginning of the film - that this was never really Babydol's story, but Sweet Pea's. This is mostly evident when the doc is about to lobotomize Babydoll, and then the scene switches to the Brothel and wee see Sweet Pea playing "Babydoll".)

    And the 'flat' and 'one-dimensional' characters, as I see it, this is again Snyder paying attention to details. Bear in mind Babydoll was in the asylum for a very short time, no more than a few days. In such a short amount of time, there was no chance she could've known the girls thoroughly and flesh out their personalities. And more importantly, what we see (i.e. the film) is in fact her fantasy. As such, in her fantasy, she probably simply imagined the few basic traits of the girls accompanying her (and quite possibly projecting some of herself into them). That's why they seem flat and undeveloped - because that's the only way thy could have been. Also, the developed characters - Dr. Vera Gorski and Blue Jones - were the ones Babydoll interacted extensively with. The first was her therapist, and the other her abuser. She came to know both of them in a more depth than the other girls.

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  17. ---> CONTINUED FROM PREVIOUS POST

    And finally, about the very ending - Sweet Pea riding into the sunset on the bus - it's in Babydoll's mind, i.e. it's only how Babydoll imagined Sweet Pea's escape, not how it actually happened. It's even evident because the Wise Man and th Boy Soldier appear there, and in the color scheme. If you noticed, the opening (in the real world, the Asylum) is all blue / black / grey, while the fantasy (the Brothel) is mostly orange / red / yellow. The ending is also in that fantasy color palette. And it makes sense: with Babydoll staying inside the Asylum there was no where for her to know how Sweet Pea's escape actually went.

    And about paying attention to details I keep mentioning, here's a few (some of them weren't noticed by me, though, since I only saw the film once and such little things simply escaped my attention):

    1) Babydoll's bullet ruptures the pipe (steam hisses out), takes a deflection and bursts the light bulb, and kills the little sister. In Babydoll's fantasies, the Nazis die with steam gushing out of them like the pipe, the robots in the train burst into fragments just like the light bulb, and it is precisely Babydoll who kills the little dragon.

    2) Babydoll doesn’t speak for the first 20 or so minutes of the movie. This gives you a feel of having all of your decisions made for you by people you distrust and dislike. Her first line is one of agency: “Let her go, pig,” with a knife to the cook’s throat.

    3) The “hero board” — the chalkboard they write on, that is — has a lineup of dancers in the ‘show’ on the other side. The names are in reverse order of their deaths. Foreshadowing!

    4) Babydoll’s real-world asylum uniform dress and brothel-filter dress are the same, to reinforce a) that one’s a filter of the other and b) that she hasn’t yet been ‘assimilated’ (corrupted by the orderlies) into the ‘brothel’ setting.

    5) Sweet Pea really is the ‘strongest of them all’ - in every fight scene, she is the only one to not take hits, unlike Babydoll and Rocket, for example. Not to mention she consistently saves Rocket’s ass, but that seems par for the course.

    And much more...

    All in all, Snyder may have had very simple material to work with, but he had certainly built around it with great care. It is full of symbolism, the unveiling of which doesn't leading to some great revelations about 'the meaning of life', but it still is, to me, a well-rounded film.

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  18. Wow, long comment indeed! And I'm certainly loving your passion for this movie. The thing is, I actually am a big Snyder fan--I loved 300, I loved Dawn Of The Dead, and I even loved the ever-controversial Watchmen, which got a lot of the same slack that Sucker Punch is getting now.

    All the points you made make complete sense. I think Snyder is really a master at creating different worlds, and I wouldn't doubt for a second that he put all of his effort into the look and logic of the movie. He's a detail genius, the effort put into every inch of 300 is stunning. However, I read in someone's review (don't remember who now!) that they thought Snyder should stick with adaptations instead of working his own material. And I've got to say, I have to agree with that. Which isn't to say anything bad about Snyder, I just think his strength is in his vast imagination and extraordinary attention to details that you pointed out. The problem with that is when it's all said and done and every piece is perfectly in place, you still need some humanity in your characters to back everything else up. Lord Of The Rings was a beautiful world, but I wouldn't have given a shit about the movie if I didn't deeply love Aragorn and Fordo and Gimli and all the supporting characters.

    If the argument is that Babydoll is off her rocker, which is why her character seems distant, that's fine. But then her lack of personality and empathy makes her feel a bit psychopathic, and that's a very hard character type to get people to connect to. Props for Snyder for trying.

    And the fact that the other girls don't have much character because Babydoll didn't get to know them makes sense. But there is an old Dostoevskian tool for that, Character Doubles, where each character reflects a different part of the main character. Usually, they're subconscious bits of the main character, things the main character doesn't necessarily like about his/her self. I think it would've been awesome if Snyder had run with something like that and actually pulled it off--and, looking back on the movie now, I think I can see him trying. The death of Sweet Pea's sister definitely mirror's Babydoll's own responsibility to her own sister, and she's certainly playing out some sort of guilt complex there. Atoning for her sins, perhaps.

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  19. And, in retrospect, it's great to notice these things and pick up on them. And maybe if I saw the movie a second time with all these details in mind, I'd actually pick up on them a little more. I just think that the ultimate flaw of the movie for me was that I personally didn't feel Babydoll's inner struggles in this movie. Yes, she had bad things happen to her, but it's my character rule that "something awful that happened to me in the past" isn't a character flaw, that's just a shit situation. Characters need flaws to seem human, and Babydoll just felt flat.

    It Watchmen, we had so many heroic characters with major flaws. Rorschach was a take-no-prisoners vigilante, Dr. Manhattan was disconnecting with humanity, the Nite Owl was a geek, Ozymandias was a bit of an ego maniac. They all had very human faults, and it was because of that careful balance between the things we loved about them and the things we hated about them that I ended up really caring about these characters. And maybe it was there in Sucker Punch, ingrained in the material, but if it was, it was overshadowed by the visual eyecandy of the movie. It's entirely possible that the actresses just weren't pulling their weight either, but I think it was more that the script just got out of hand and lost Babydoll's humanity somewhere along the line.

    Granted, this is all my opinion, clearly you felt very connected to the characters, and to Babydoll, and that bus (salvation bus, get it?) just rode on without me. Nonetheless, I've got my fingers crossed for Snyder's next film, and I hope he figures out his strengths and weaknesses in his own original scripts by then and churns out the badassitry I know he's capable of.

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  20. Hey, thanks for taking the time to respond to my lengthy comment. Usually, I'd be greeted with silence, haha!

    I can't deny 'Sucker Punch' has its flaws, but for some reason the film just 'clicked' with me instantly. And yours is the first review (well, beside mine's) that hasn't outright bashed both the film and Snyder. The amount of hate 'Sucker Punch' and Snyder received is simply unjust.

    I see people writing stuff like: "Haha, of course 'Sucker Punch' sucked! It's Snyder, what did you expect?" I would truly (sucker) punch these ignorants in the face, grrrrr!

    So, even though we disagree in some parts, it's nice to see someone actually appreciating Snyder's undeniable talents.

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  21. You're welcome! Dude, it was an epic as hell comment, I had to respond. That much movie passion can not go ignored!

    And I feel that. That was part of the reason I decided to focus on the better parts of the movie--because there WAS a lot about the movie that disappointed me, but I felt like it was getting a lot more flack than it probably deserved.

    That is worth a sucker punch! I'm definitely a Snyder fan, I don't really get all the criticisms. But a lot of great visionaries get a some real heat from critics; Tarantino's my all time favorite and he gets a shit ton of crap for his movies. Even though his movies are at least celebrated by most of the elitist parts of the movie critic world, so it's not quite the same comparison.

    If you're interested, you should definitely check out Rachel's Sucker Punch review at f.g.i (http://filmgirlinterrupted.blogspot.com/2011/03/stop-cyberbullying-sucker-punch-is-one.html). I'm sure she won't mind my shameless pimping. She's one of the few that also really loved and stood up for Sucker Punch, so you'll at least be able to get some satisfaction there!

    I hope you know that you have now set a very high bar for yourself and I'm going to be expecting more epic movie debates. Bring it!

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  22. "I hope you know that you have now set a very high bar for yourself and I'm going to be expecting more epic movie debates. Bring it!"

    Heh, I'll be happy to oblige.

    Though, now that I think about, I only engaged in such in-depth discussions with "Watchmen", which is my favorite film of all time. This is when I finally decided to myself: "OK, Snyder really IS a goddamn genius!" Not many people shared my passionate views for that film, unfortunately.

    I also wrote an looooong review of "John Rambo", which is my favorite action film / war drama. But that was mostly a long monologue from my part, since once again it appeared not many viewed Sly's latest Rambo installment in the same light as I did.

    P. S. I'll definitely check out Rachel's review. Thanks for the link.

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  23. I don't really understand why Watchman got such a bad rep either. I definitely loved it. Rorschach is a BAMF, that's all there is to it.

    I haven't seen John Rambo! I'll have to check it out now. I'm shamelessly ignorant of most Rambo movies, and I have to fix that immediately.

    Enjoy her review! I'm sure you'll appreciate, homie.

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  24. P. P. S. Don't know if you knew about this...

    Zack Snyder said in an interview he had to cut out 18 minutes of the theatrical release. He says (and I'm assuming that 'them' is the MPAA):

    “They were just like, ‘It’s too creepy, it’s too dark'. We cut a bunch of violence — on the BluRay there’s more action. There were a couple scenes that crossed the line for them, even if nothing happens in them. Just the tone was wrong.”

    Also removed from the finished film are all the dance sequences that had been planned.

    “So much work was put into it and the girls really loved it because they had to learn these big elaborate dance numbers that we felt like could live on in the extended cut.”

    I loved the theatrical edition so much, so I'm ecstatic to see 'Sucker Punch' uncut, as it was initially intended.

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  25. I didn't know about that! I think I'll actually have to check the director's cut out, I think it'll be really interesting to see if the movie comes together in a different way. Honestly, I'm kinda one of those people that thinks you should make a movie once and be proud of it (except with Bladerunner...director's cut is the only way to go), but this one I'll actually have to check out. Dance sequences and more gore? Yes, please.

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  26. Hey, just wanted to drop a few words since I just had the luck to see the extended version of "Sucker Punch".

    In this case, these added 18 minutes really make a difference. Most are short bits and pieces inserted here and there. In the action department, I haven't noticed that much of a change - except in the Dragon scene, where there's a minute or so of extra stylish-as-fuck kickassery in the courtyard. There is also a slightly altered, and more plausible version of Babydoll accidental murder of her sister. But these could all be called little things.

    However, there are two major scenes present now that weren't before, and they DO matter.

    The first is an elaborate musical dance piece to the song "Love is the Drug", featuring Blue, Madam Gorski and the girls. This I could have actually gone without, but since dance makes a major plot element of this whole film, it is nice to have an actual dance in it.

    The second scene, in my opinion, is essential and they should have never, never cut it out. It involves and actual interaction between Babydoll and the High Roller, which happens right after Sweet Pea's escape in the fantasy world, and seconds before the lobotomy in the real world. With this footage restored, the whole film is less ambiguous, less awkward and certainly deeper (and ultimately, of course, better).

    I don't know how you feel about re-watching a film you weren't that crazy about in the first place, but I highly, highly recommend seeing the Extended Cut, at least once.

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