Drowning Mona

The first thing I wanted to do as I watched Drowning Mona was to buy a Yugo, and this was after I completely stopped caring about who drowned her. (And that says a lot about the film, which is an attempt at a character study of a small, almost incestual, town, where a group of people are collectively linked together in their dislike of the primary protagonist.)

Mona Dearly (Bette Midler), the object of everyone's discord, is killed when she runs off a cliff and plunges into a lake. The town's police chief Wyatt Rash (Danny DeVito), with the help of Lucinda (Kathleen Wilhoite), a car mechanic and Melissa Etheridge idoliser, discovers that the brakes were tampered with (in two different ways). The movie then takes on the form of a whodunit and Wyatt is left with a dilemma in his hands as he has a bunch of suspects all with good motives to kill her, including Bobby Calzone (Casey Affleck) who is about to be married to the chief's daughter Ellen (Neve Campbell); Phil (William Fichtner) who was a battered spouse under Mona's control; Jeff (Marcus Thomas), Mona's mentally challenged son who lost his hand (literally) to her; deputy Feege (Peter Dobson) whose speeding encounter with Mona left him with a dirty shirt; and Rona Mace (Jamie Lee Curtis) who is playing around with both Jeff and Phil.

To add to the motives, there are a bunch of red herrings and ambiguous circumstances which are left unresolved until the very end (intentionally, of course), so as to keep us from guessing the real identity of the murderer. When the killer is finally revealed, I felt distinctly underwhelmed, not because it was expected, but because the movie doesn't do enough to build up tension and interest in the outcome.

The pacing could've been better, and the movie as a whole could've been improved by adopting some sort of a strong direction, instead of the vacuous feel it projects. The acting is decent but none of the cast are given enough time to develop their characters. Some of the throw-away gags (including the Yugo ones) are amusing. Drowning Mona could be looked at as study on how things happen in a small all-white middle-class town, but even then, the messages you would get from it would be limited. I recommend waiting for it on video or giving it a miss.

Movie ram-blings || Ram Samudrala || me@ram.org