Jan 20, 2014

Sundance Review: "The Foxy Merkins" is a Sloppy, Uneven Comedy

The Foxy Merkins is both striking in title as it is in premise. Two homeless lesbian prostitutes befriend each other and become partners in making some cash. The story centers on the misadventures specifically of the chubby Margaret (Lisa Haas) as she deals with many suitors that result in comedic moments ranging from foreplay to a strange movie theater date. As a whole, the film is a series of bits strung together with ranging degrees of success. While at times a little too repetitive, the film manages to give its characters heart in the moments in between.
Margaret lives the typical homeless life as she sleeps in public bathrooms and hangs out with Jo (Jackie Monahan), who teaches her on how to build confidence. The moments that click are the ones when this unassuming pair are left wandering the streets of New York and sharing strange stories, including a subplot involving Margaret’s family. There’s plenty of twists regarding character dynamics in the third act, though it lays on the dramatic impact a little too thick.
At times, the film feels a little unfocused on its tone. For a single scene, it turns into a documentary, interviewing real former lesbian prostitutes. The moment is novel, setting an interesting tone that hybrids real life commentary with the fictional story. While it helps to establish back story, it is never addressed again and ends up feeling a little off with the rest of the thematic elements. The interviews also keep the film from feeling either purposeful or just for laughs. The end product doesn’t address lesbian prostitution in any eventful way that makes this one scene hold impact. It is a little unfocused and while often funny, does feel meandering.
The lead performers however have great chemistry with Lisa Haas being selfless in her physical comedy. Jackie Monahan is equally fun as she dispenses advice with a calm and cool demeanor that becomes the backbone to the duo’s chemistry. Alex Karpovsky adds an odd yet wonderful bit of humor to the story as the seller of the titular merkin. As the case with most of the supporting cast, he enters and exits the story casually, only popping up to deliver more jokes.
As a comedy, The Foxy Merkins works part of the time. It is more constructed around the likability of its leads, and it manages to give the film enough weight to hold interest. Tonally, there are some problems with the consistency and some jokes are too monotonous. There isn’t too much to hate about the film, but it lacks focus in its overall message. It may hurt the film from feeling memorable, but with two good lead performances, it at least shows the promise of actors willing to elevate problematic material to something a little more interesting.

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