Friday, March 11, 2011

Reverend’s Interview & Review: Elektra Luxx

It’s not often that I get to sit down at a round table for an intimate chat (well, as intimate as it can be with five other journalists present) with three equally lovely, “name” actresses. But, thanks be to God, I had such an opportunity last week as I spoke with Carla Gugino, Malin Akerman and Emmanuelle Chriqui about their new movie, Elektra Luxx, which opens today. Throwing the film’s writer-director, Sebastian Gutierrez, into the mix made for a lively afternoon. Only one topic was off limits: Charlie Sheen.

Elektra Luxx — an unanticipated sequel of sorts to Gutierrez’s Women in Trouble (and the middle chapter of a now-planned trilogy) — is named after Gugino’s character, a former porn actress who finds herself pregnant by a deceased rock star. Striving to live a more conventional life, Elektra has taken to teaching a course on “How to Act Like a Porn Star in Bed” to women at her local community center. In a running joke, she has to share the space with her parish priest’s religious education classes. Elektra soon finds herself in over her head escaping from her past, as a private detective (Timothy Olyphant), a former co-star (Akerman), an obsessed porn blogger (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and the Virgin Mary (an uncredited cameo by Julianne Moore) all come knocking on her door.

During the interview, Gugino quickly proved herself to be not only as attractive as she is on screen but highly intelligent. A veteran of such diverse movies as Spy Kids, Watchmen, Race to Witch Mountain, the upcoming Sucker Punch and the cancelled-too-soon (in my opinion) TV series Threshold, Gugino shared some of her influences or role models for the character of Elektra Luxx.

“(Porn star) Jenna Jameson was a source of inspiration in this particular case,” Gugino noted, “because she wrote a book and has done very well and is an absolute business woman; that was certainly an influence.”

She continued her thoughts in terms of making character choices. “Being pregnant and a porn star is of course more significant than being pregnant and not a porn star,” Gugino said. “What I really just love about (Elektra) is that despite having many abortions and having slept with so many people and having drug problems, she still seems to have this sense of innocence; I really love this sort of untouched part of her.”

During one particularly well-written scene, St. Mary appears in Elektra’s bathroom. Referring to her “virgin” status, Mary off-handedly tells Elektra “That whole thing is blown out of proportion.” Mary also amusingly tells Elektra she can ask any question of her whatsoever “except ‘What’s the capital of South Dakota?” I asked Gugino what it was like to work with former Oscar nominee Julianne Moore.

“It was so great,” Gugino replied. “She was our dream Virgin Mary because we needed somebody who had a certain kind of resonance that it seemed Elektra would really listen to, so she couldn’t be too young and yet we also needed someone who had a certain pure quality to her. We were talking about ‘Who would be the perfect person?’ and the answer came, ‘Julianne Moore’.”

Gugino also gets to perform a musical number entitled “All I Want to Do is Fall in Love.” Given her character’s long blonde hair and costume, Gugino bears an uncanny resemblance to Christina Aguilera in the recent Burlesque while doing so. She pulls the song off extremely well, especially since — according to Gutierrez — Gugino only had a couple of hours to learn and rehearse it.

On playing Elektra again, Gugino said, “It was a lovely treat, like dessert or something. Somewhere while shooting (Women in Trouble), we realized there’s so much more to explore with this character.” That exploration will continue in the final film of the trilogy, which Gutierrez has titled Women in Ecstasy.

The Venezuela-born Gutierrez has written several big studio productions including Gothika, Snakes on a Plane and The Eye. He has also been a frequent collaborator on screenplays with gay filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar. Prior to Elektra Luxx, Gutierrez directed Judas Kiss (starring acting heavyweights Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman) and Rise in addition to Women in Trouble and Girl Walks Into a Bar (which also debuts today in Los Angeles and on YouTube).

Upon his arrival at the interview, Gutierrez immediately noted the rather blank room’s similarity to a set from a certain hit movie from last year as only a true cinema connoisseur could: “I’m a little weirded out by the Inception-like space we find ourselves in.”

We spoke extensively about the conflict Gutierrez has noted, as a foreign-born filmmaker, between how Americans “want to break the rules, but on the other hand there’s this puritanical streak that’s so embedded in the population”. (Interestingly, Philippe Diaz, the Latino writer-director of the recent release Now & Later, noted the same thing.) Gutierrez views Elektra’s struggle to overcome her pornographic past and fit into mainstream society as somewhat of a reflection of this dichotomy.

“The movie is actually very moral,” Gutierrez said. “Both this movie and Women in Trouble have a bark that’s much worse than their bite. (Elektra) is a woman with Catholic guilt talking to the Virgin Mary. I was raised Catholic and was taught you are supposed to forgive the sinner, especially if they repent.”

The writer-director continued: “Not being from (the US), I find it interesting that the place seems to be built on that push-pull between wanting to get away with everything and being very puritanical; while this movie is not really about that, it’s a fascinating thing to me.”

Lastly, supporting co-stars Malin Akerman — whom those who know her refer to as Mal (rhymes with “maul”) — and Emmanuelle Chriqui stopped by. Akerman is a rising star following her turns in Watchmen, Couples Retreat, last week’s happythankyoumoreplease and Children’s Hospital on the Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim. Chriqui is best known as Sloan on HBO’s Entourage and from Adam Sandler’s You Don’t Mess with the Zohan.

As Bambi Lindberg in Elektra Luxx, Chriqui plays the best friend of Elektra’s former co-star Holly Rocket. Holly is played by Adrianne Palicki, who had to cancel out of the press day due to her new, high-profile role as Wonder Woman in David E. Kelley’s new TV series based on the classic super heroine.

During one scene in the movie between Holly and Bambi, Holly confesses her love for Bambi to both their surprise. “It’s not about being straight or gay,” Holly says. “I love you; I’ve never been clearer about anything.” It’s a powerful and refreshing moment, and I look forward to their relationship’s further development in Women in Ecstasy.

As for Elektra Luxx, I loved the film’s humor and subversive attitude, which are especially strong in the first half hour or so (a James Bond-ish opening titles sequence and song are great). Some of the character vignettes in the middle third seem disjointed and most are a bit too serious after the movie’s strong, funny start. However, the entire cast is fantastic, with Moore’s brief appearance a particularly nice touch. Be sure to stay through the end credits for a fun, final send-off.

Reverend’s Rating: B-

UPDATE: Elektra Luxx is now available on DVD from

Interview and review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and the Blade California.

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