Viva (18)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner13/05/2009

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 120 mins

Enjoyably trashy pastiche of 1970s sexploitation movies – the colourful production design, terrible acting and cheesy dialogue are all impeccable, but it's at least 30 minutes too long and isn't as funny as it should have been.

What's it all about?
Viva stars writer-director Anna Biller as Barbi, a bored housewife in 1972 Los Angeles, whose blond husband Rick (Chad England) spends too much time away from home. Barbi spends her days hanging out with swinging neighbours Sheila and Mark (Bridget Brno and Jared Sanford), but when both couples split up, Barbi and Sheila reinvent themselves as Viva and Candy and embark on a series of sexual adventures.

The Good
Viva was intended as a tribute to the sexploitation films of the 1970s, such as Russ Meyer's Beyond the Valley of the Dolls or Herschell Gordon Lewis' Suburban Roulette. As such, the photography and production design (garish colours, authentic props, eye-popping costumes) are impeccable and if you didn't know better, you'd swear you were watching a lost film from the early ‘70s.

The acting and dialogue are deliberately awful, so it's hard to judge the performances, except to say that the actors are all great at being terrible. However, the film does have a few delightful surprises up its sleeve, such as when Biller suddenly starts including musical numbers (Viva's orgy song is a particular highlight).

The Bad
The main problem is that for a sexploitation flick, it isn't nearly sexy enough (especially as co-star Brno apparently refused to go naked) and occasionally falters in tone – for example, there are at least three rape scenes and one attempted rape, yet Barbi never seems all that bothered.

Similarly, it's not nearly as funny as it should have been and at times it seems like a bizarre vanity project for Biller. In addition, the film outstays its welcome with a lengthy two hour running time.

Worth seeing?
Viva is undoubtedly destined for cult movie status and is worth seeing for curiosity value alone, though it's a shame the script isn't a bit sharper.

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Content updated: 23/07/2018 12:53

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