These Sisters’ can act

The Banger Sisters
Rated R
Opening tomorrow in area theaters
Two-and-a-half reels out of four

Watching Goldie Hawn and Susan Sarandon go at it in The Banger Sisters is a little like seeing two future hall-of-fame baseball players face other while backed by inferior teams. You’re happy you got tickets but you would have liked to have seen a better game.

The Banger Sisters tells the story of Lavinia (Sarandon) and Suzette (Hawn), whose exploits as rock groupies in the 1970s were so notorious that Frank Zappa named them. They have long since gone their separate ways, with Lavinia now married to a prominent Phoenix lawyer and Suzette still hanging around the clubs working as a bartender. When the salty Suzette loses her job by mouthing off to her boss, she heads to Phoenix to look up her old partner in crime. Although the now-reserved Lavinia (known as Vinnie in her groupie days) at first shuns Suzette, it’s not long before the two are toking on a doobie and talking about the good old days.

The pairing of Sarandon and Hawn is itself worth the price of admission. The two eat up the screen like the megastars they are and you’re happy to let them. Sarandon delivers a poignant yet funny portrait of a woman who has lost her way. She used to run with the wolves. Now she drives them to soccer practice. When Suzette shows up, it is the catalyst Lavinia needs to shake things up. The Banger Sisters is one of those movies that hovers between comedy and drama, and generally keeps its balance.

Hawn is also a joy to watch. She hasn’t done that much lately and has done comedy even less. Which is a shame, because she is one of our better film comediennes. We all know someone like Suzette, someone who refuses to grow up. Hawn makes her fun but very human at the same time.

The Banger Sisters is not without its moments. I loved the scene in which Lavinia and Suzette get high and look at old photos of rock stars’ privates. Just the fact that Lavinia has kept them all this time is almost as funny as the scene itself. There is also a touching scene involving Lavinia’s daughter’s graduation.

But good moments alone do not make a movie. For one, much of the film seems entrenched in formula.

There used to be a time when you could get away with putting two stars in a movie and letting them do their thing. For better or worse, independent films have raised the bar. For the same price of a mainstream movie, you can visit your local art house to see a film about real people that feels like real life, with actors just as good, if not better.

That said, there is still much to enjoy. There are some real belly laughs, a couple of true moments and a chance to see two old pros chew up some scenery and each other. Is it art? Probably not, but it’s not bad either.

Recommended rental

Big Fat Liar
Rated PG
Available Tuesday

When a Hollywood producer steals Jason Sheperd’s idea for a story, nobody believes him. Turns out Jason (Frankie Muniz) has a bit of reputation for telling tall tales. Jason, sensing no alternative, goes to Hollywood to confront the producer himself. The main reason to rent this is Paul Giamatti. He has virtually made a career out of playing men with short fuses. He’s hilarious. At 87 minutes, the movie is just long enough to have fun with the subject but short enough not to overstay its welcome.