Today’s installment of Insomniac Movie Theater, where we celebrate the best/worst in late-night movie programming comes from contributor Vincent Scarpa. Trevan McGee will be back next week with another not-so-classic.
Maybe it’s because I’m from Jersey, but I can’t help loving “Coyote Ugly”. The Comcast listing gives it one star, it has a 21% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and it’s also one of my favorite movies. These things are not mutually exclusive.
How it makes me feel isn’t easily vocalized. I can’t point a finger and say this movie is great “because.” The thing is, there’s nothing award-winning in the make-up of it–the acting, writing, and directing are all average, if not below average. It’s not thought-provoking and it doesn’t break any new ground.
For these reasons and many more, “Coyote Ugly” is seemingly absent from the entertainment consciousness. It’s never referenced culturally, and it’s rarely re-aired on TV. Which is why I was so thrilled to see it on upcoming listings last week on TBS. I set my DVR immediately.
“Coyote Ugly” is the simple tale of Violet Sanford, (played by the loverly Piper Perabo, meow) a waitress from South Amboy, New Jersey, who wants to make it big as a singer-songwriter in Manhattan, something that the mother she never knew missed the chance to achieve. Her father (John Goodman) gives her hell about it, in that adorable I-don’t-want-my-only-baby-to-leave way (by reading aloud the crime report in the city), but by minute fifteen, Violet’s all moved into her shitty apartment in the city.
It’s a rundown studio that she’s no doubt overpaying for, but there’s a kind of success in her having a set of keys to a place in Manhattan that is unique to New Jersey natives. Best friend Gloria (Melanie Lynskey, that girl from “fill in the blank”) stuffs a wad of cash into Violet’s freezer, just in case.
The first night in her own apartment, a city girl at last, Violet busts out her recording equipment and guitar. All of the music in the film is actually that of LeAnn Rimes (who makes a cameo at the end), but it rings just as true. Her neighbor bangs on the wall everytime Violet sings, so she finds herself on top of her building, making music and overlooking Manhattan. You get the feeling this girl is going to make it, and in a big way.
Of course, it’s not that easy. It’s a 90-minute film. Garnering up a bit of courage, Violet brings her mix tape to a local venue and hands it to Mr. O’Donnell (Adam Garcia), mistaking him as something other than a bus boy. He leads her on a bit, saying that he knows people in the industry, until he’s busted by his boss right in front of her. Embarassed and downtrodden, Violet goes back to her apartment to find that its been broken into. Welcome to New York City!
With the four bucks she has remaining, our protagonist ends up at a diner in the middle of the night. If you’re a believer in the Freytag Pyramid, this is where the dramatic event takes place. Violet is drawn to the foursome of ladies in the back of the diner, wads of money in their hands and high-priced hooker boots on. She assumes that they are prostitutes, but soon learns that they’re Coyotes, which is code for women who dance on tables-slash-bartend-slash-occassionaly strip at a popular bar downtown.
Meanwhile, Kevin, formerly Mr. O’Donnell, attempts to get back in Violet’s good graces by getting her a spot on a showcase. It’s here where we learn the central crisis of the film: Violet has stage fright. And while this issue doesn’t rival that of Sophie’s Choice, it’s the big road block in Violet achieving any kind of success. After a late-night practice run with Kevin—which of course leads to sex—she gives it a go.
She makes her way to the microphone without puking, but can’t strum a chord. She apologizes and runs off the stage. It’s sad to watch, painful even, because there’s something remarkably human about the crisis the film poses. What the character wants is to be a successful musician, but the means by which to get there terrify her. What’s more human than that?