Sundance Review: Despite a Hilarious Setup, Madeleine Olnek’s THE FOXY MERKINS Is a Disappointing Sophomore Effort
BY EMMA MYERS
In 2011, Madeleine Olnek’s debut feature, CODEPENDENT LESBIAN SPACE ALIEN SEEKS SAME, premiered at Sundance to positive (if ultimately limited) reception. Made on a shoestring budget, (think space ships made out of tin foil), the warm and witty spoof on sci-fi B-movies firmly established the writer-director’s singular comedic sensibility. In her follow-up, THE FOXY MERKINS, Olnek turns the male hustler genre on its head to imagine what a lesbian prostitution ring in might look like. Re-casting the previous movie’s charmingly deadpan duo Lisa Haas and Jackie Monahan, on paper, THE FOXY MERKINS has all the right ingredients to please Olnek’s niche audience. Unfortunately, after a truly hilarious and fresh first act, the film can no longer sustain its premise as superfluous subplots and extraneous episodes slow the overall momentum almost to a halt.
Lisa Haas plays Margaret, a down-and-out gay woman who’s not quite cutting it on the streets. In the opening scene, we find the overweight, bespeckled Margaret leaning more uncomfortably than casually against the wrought-iron gate of a Manhattan apartment building. Clad in an unflattering t-shirt and hoody and sporting a pair of orthopedic sneakers, Margaret seems like she’s the furthest thing from a harlot one, and indeed, most passersby don’t so much as glance her way. But after moments of awkward eye contact with a well put together young woman seemingly more interested in yelling into her phone, Margaret finally gets propositioned: “I’d like to be fully serviced,” the woman says, “and I’d like to pay more for it. It turns me on to pay more for it.” It’s an offer most lesbian hookers couldn’t refuse, but the still-inexperienced Margaret just doesn’t feel right about it.