Monday, June 30, 2014

Load Up the Calamine Lotion

Poison Ivy is one of those much-referenced ‘90s sexy thrillers that I’m guessing less people have seen than used as a punchline. I do not tolerate such hijinks.

Quick Plot: Darlene Connor--er, Sylvia Cooper--is a lonely teenager making minor attempts to revolt against her wealthy, recovering alcoholic dad (Tom Skerritt and later, Tom Skerritt's butt) and beautiful but dying mother (Cheryl Ladd). To her surprise, the socially awkward Sylvia befriends the blond, beautiful, and rebellious new girl on a scholarship named (sorta) Ivy.

They each buy one half of a best friend necklace, help each other with their homework, and team up to win the big science fair competition.

Wait, that must have been the R-rated editions. Let me change the settings on this DVD.


While she begins with the lovable smile of Drew Barrymore, it only takes a month or so for Ivy to draw our her inner Crush-era Alicia Silverstone (pre-chewing up food and spitting it in her baby's mouth, naturally).

Directed by The Rage: Carrie 2's Katt Shea, Poison Ivy is certainly a film of its early '90s time period, most notably in its smoldering saxophone infused score. The film was fairly infamous and went on to spawn three sequels, all (as far as I can tell from quick synopses) with the same basic formula of a mystery hot chick befriending a wallflower and overtaking her life. We've seen it before and I can't imagine living in a world where we won't see it again.

That being said, I was surprised at how much fun I had with Poison Ivy. Barrymore, an actress I've always found to be likable but limited, manages some of her best work with Ivy, conveying a trashy sweetness in early scenes and carefully transitioning to her sexy inner sociopath. Sarah Gilbert was always the best thing on Roseanne (and considering the talents of Laurie Metcalf and John Goodman, that says a lot) so it's no surprise to see her nail a similarly alienated teen. 

Also, this film is SLEAZY. I'm talking "Tom Skerritt orally pleasing an underage Drew Barrymore on the bed that this dying wife is sleeping on" sleazy. Maybe I should have saved that bit for the--

High Points
I mean, this film has Tom Skerritt orally pleasing an underage Drew Barrymore on the bed that this dying wife is sleeping on. You can't say the film doesn't go for it

Low Points
It's not necessarily the film's fault that since its debut 22 years ago, Lifetime has produced dozens and dozens of movies with the exact same premise and beats

Lessons Learned
TMJ almost killed Burt Reynolds

You can’t put 200 people on the sidewalk just cause you don’t like an editorial

When in doubt, never forget the powers of a sexy saxophone score

Poison Ivy is a Long Wait on Netflix, leading me to believe it's out of print (oddly enough, the same goes for Shea's The Rage). While this isn't the kind of movie you need to start eBaying madly, I do certainly recommend a watch if it crosses your screen. Particularly if you’re in the mood for true and utter sleaze.


  1. Oooooh! So this Poison Ivy series has nothing to do with comics! I always wondered why Batman and Robin warranted a spinoff with three sequels, yet never remembered to find out what these were.

    Sleazy, you say? Consider my curiosity piqued!

  2. Well, Drew Barrymore WAS in one of the Batman films. I'm sure a connection could be forged if needed!

  3. ah yes, fond memories of this film - watching it with the sweet young psychopath who wrecked my marriage, believe it or not, right after getting my first tattoo (and watching American Beauty with the wife the day before) -- I also resonated with Tom Selleck's drinking --the quickness with which he whips the vodka out in the morning, takes a slug and puts it back all in the time it takes his wife to walk out of the room for five seconds. I USED TO DO THAT WITH MY MOM, when she left the room - BAM I'd hit that bottle, tuned in to every creak of her censorious movements.

  4. I won't even ask about the dog bribery.

  5. It's been a while since I've seen this movie--I've actually seen it quite a few times thanks to TNT showing it on heavy rotation years ago. As I recall the sequels were pretty poor imitations of the original as you mentioned. I consider this movie to be part of Drew Barrymore's "wild child Lolita" phase which included movies like Doppelganger, Guncrazy and Bad Girls. Kind of interesting to consider the fact that she started out as a child star who ended up in rehab, then starred in a string of genre b-movies before working her way up to the A-list starring in mostly rom-coms. Although at this point in her career I can't see Drew playing a femme fatale type since she's changed her public persona so much that I tend to associate her with more lighthearted fare.

  6. It is quite odd how her recovery somehow opened the door to this kinds of roles, and now, on the flip side, it's so hard to picture her as anything but a lovable rom-com goofball. I've never thought much of her range, but she does have a great likability that's helped her in later roles. It was fun to see her, in hindsight, playing against type!

    And ugh. Bad Girls. Bad, bad, bad girls.