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The Guitar - drama DVD / Sundance film festival DVD review
THE GUITAR Rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America rating: 3 stars
Actors: Saffron Burrows, Isaach De Bankolé, Paz de la Huerta, Janeane Garofalo, Adam Trese
Director: Amy Redford   Studio: Starz / Anchor Bay
DVD release: 10 February 2009   Runtime: 95 minutes (1 disc)
Format: Color, Dolby, DVD, Widescreen, NTSC
DVD Features: Aspect ratio 1.78:1, Audio tracks (Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround - English; Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo - English), Subtitles (English), Director's commentary, Trailer

Mel Wilder (Saffron Burrows) has one, maybe two months to live. She also has a fistful of high-limit credit cards. It's a frail skeleton to hang a story on and, in the end, there's not much meat on these bones. We do, however, learn an important lesson from The Guitar: when dealing with the American medical establishment, always get a second opinion.

The Guitar has been called The Bucket List for the art mob, but that ain't it. It's really Sex and the Single Girl writ small and particular. In Helen Gurley Brown's classic self-help book, the "mouseburger" single female is cajoled and instructed to use men to her advantage and for her pleasure; turnabout is fair play. In The Guitar, mouseburger Mel is pricked into action by a death sentence. Implausibly, as she comes into work late the next morning, she's fired by her overbearing boss with whom she can't even squeeze in a 140-character tweet. A few minutes later, it's her boyfriend who runs her over with his emotional needs; he breaks up with her.

All the while, the soundtrack is overburdened by Mel's disease, which makes her wheeze. It's a strange congruence, Mel being overrun by males while we hear heavy breathing as the boys speak. It adds up to a weird, unintentional, and distracting Freudian slip.

What's lovely about the film is the totally rationalized binge of extreme consumerism that Mel indulges in. She always wanted to dwell in a big penthouse loft so, with only days to live, why not? Short-term lease? Not a problem; in fact, perfect. She gets a phone (in a weird scene involving a strangely unburdened-by-bureaucracy phone guy and a banana; maybe the heavy breathing wasn't a Fruedian slip?) and is freed to wander naked through her loft space, ordering a king-size bed, gorgeous lamps and furniture, and clingy fabric things that drape her body, the bed and the floor. Then there's the eponymous guitar: a luscious red Fender Stratocaster (a pre-CBS dream ax) fueled by a wall of Marshall amps.

Delivery man Roscoe, played by the gorgeous Isaach De Bankolé, is allegedly from Maine (or New Jersey, it hardly matters), but his fictional origins are belied by his thick Cote d'Ivorian accent. He's married, but that's perfect for dying Mel - as is the pizza girl, Cookie (Paz de la Huerta), engaged to be married and putting on a thick Brooklyn accent. The three hit it off great, cavorting naked, tangling themselves in clingy fabric things, and drinking lots of champagne.

The conclusion of this first film by Amy Redford (yes, that Redford; this is Robert's daughter) is inevitable from the first few minutes - besides, the jacket copy has hyped the "transformational" trajectory of the narrative arc. Fair enough, if predictable. The film scores no points there, but rather for it's consumeristic exhibitionism. That credit goes to the film's designer, Marla Weinhoff, and set decorator Kelley Burney, who must have had a field day working on The Guitar.
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reviewed by Brian Charles Clark
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