Asking for It, 2022.
Written and Directed by Eamon O’Rourke.
Starring Kiersey Clemons, Vanessa Hudgens, Alexandra Shipp, Ezra Miller, Radha Mitchell, Gabourey Sidibe, Casey Cott, Leslie Stratton, Casey Camp-Horinek, Leyna Bloom, Lisa Yaro, Demetrius Shipp Jr., Luke Hemsworth, David Patrick Kelly, Patricia Belcher, Eric Michael Cole, Dylan Flashner, and Eamon O’Rourke.
After a small town waitress is sexually assaulted after a date with her old friend she befriends a mysterious stranger who introducers her to an all femme gang.
Writer and director Eamon O’Rourke seems unable to decide whether he wants his feature-length directorial debut Asking for It to be exploitative trashy fun or take seriously the many sensitive subjects it brings up. Even if he had a definitive angle, there is likely no saving this one, but the movie does come alive for a brief moment when the all-femme gang known as The Cherry Bombers (a group of wronged women that plan and carry out revenge crimes against physically and sexually abusive men) go undercover wearing dresses to infiltrate a frat house and break into a vault of stolen photographs and porn of the men’s victims (used for personal pleasure and blackmail purposes), while also delivering comeuppance. However, that sequence, too, feels only halfway formed from a directorial standpoint, as if O’Rourke is afraid to follow through with a promise of something entertaining. The story is in trouble long before any of this, tastelessly using sexual assault not only as merely a plot point but something to mostly discard from the protagonist until a convenient third act of conflict within the inner workings of the rebels.
Kiersey Clemons is Joey, a standard waitress that decides to hang out with some friends after work one night, particularly Mike (Casey Cott). What starts as something casual and safe sadly ends with an unconscious Joey raped, who wakes up maintaining a foggy memory but enough to remember what happened. Insultingly, Asking for It flashes forward past this immediate trauma by way of an unnecessary montage. The reason being is that O’Rourke only cares about working this rape into the story so that restaurant patron Regina (Alexandra Shipp) can notice Joey’s triggered PTSD when Mike enters the building.
Regina also comes from a history of abuse, promptly introducing Joey to the rest of the gang and their hideout. Asking for It is also the kind of movie where characters don’t have much personality, so they are defined by stylistic freeze frames plastering the character’s name next to their face in an edgy font. The most we know about any of them are implied horrors they have endured only to find strength and a calling in something bigger than themselves. None of them are essential to the story, but the addition of an ASL-speaking burn victim in Lily (Leslie Stratton) is admired. There’s also Beatrice (Vanessa Hudgens), who frequently takes revenge too far and, for reasons not crystal clear, doesn’t approve of Regina taking Joey under her wing, making for some arguments.
Elsewhere is Ezra Miller’s Mark Vanderhill, an alt-right nutjob that has radicalized several people online in the name of male dominance. Early scenes spliced between the life of Joey attempt to chronicle his rise in domestic terrorism, starting from online videos on how to pick up women in public to now working with a crooked police department dabbling in sex trafficking. There’s no denying that guys like Mark do exist in real life, but the presentation of this material is slightly cartoonish without much interest in to say. If nothing else, Ezra Miller seems to understand that Asking for It is begging for scenery-chewing performances considering every attempt to play this movie straight results in offensive oversights and misfires. O’Rourke also has a slightly better understanding of how to skewer MRAs than write feminist characters
There are even more characters here, involving a different set of police officers tracking and looking after the gang who are now on a collision course with Mark and his equally unhinged followers (it’s a riff on Men Going Their Own Way without any insight). And that’s not counting the other several minor characters that pop up here and there to assist the girls, ranging from those specializing in information to an orphanage. Last is a psychopathic sheriff that makes Mark look like an upstanding citizen. Unsurprisingly, Asking for It descends into violence, although the few shootouts here are embarrassingly shot, so even if the film was more interested in taking a path of bloodied justice throughout, it might not have benefited anything.
O’Rourke only sees these characters for the trauma, never once studying them and their interactions with one another meaningfully, which is a shame considering this is a likable ensemble that is assuredly trying. He also doesn’t know how to resolve any of Asking for It, lazily bringing each thread to a resolution one by one within the final 10 minutes. No one asked for this.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com