Double Dare

DOUBLE DARE. 2004

Director: Amanda Micheli

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl



This documentary of women in the Hollywood stunt industry focuses largely on a sweet kiwi girl, Zoe Bell, who was the stunt double for Xena, Warrior Princess. Throughout that job she had a rather sheltered career with people concerned for her well-being. But when Xena was cancelled, this endearing young athlete was thrown into the eat-or-be-eaten competitiveness of an industry that does not care if she finds employment or not, & does not care if she gets hurt if & when she ever works again. After ego-bruising experiences looking for that next gig, she does finally get an impressive job as Uma Thurman's stunt double for Kill Bill, on which set she was badly injured.

She has since this documentary doubled for Sharon Stone in Catwoman & not much else beyond inspiring fetishistic fan clubs for masochistic men who fantasize muscular chicks, & encouraging non-athletic young women to do costuming at the dorkiest sorts of media & science fiction conventions. I guess that qualifies as a career.

We also get to see a pack of awful white trash jesus freak boozing smoking generally unhealthy & by & large homely women who easily put even their own children in harm's way to sustain their "adventure" images, pretend not to be cutthroat & desperate, pretend not to be talentless & appalling, pretend to be friends... They come off better than that only if you don't pay attention.

Zoe, the only appealing member of the whole lot, arrives stateside from New Zealand & hooks up with this crew of repugnant trailer trash. Despite having for a while had a far better job than any of the rest, she really knows very little about the games & inroads & machinations of a callous industry. She apparently couldn't see that this pack of losers were not going to be of any use for anything but an endless supply of commiserations over cheap beer, & they had more to gain by courting her than she had by accepting their two-faced embraces. They otherwise & quite obviously do what they can to keep new stuntwomen out of their losers' circle since there's already so much competition that most of them never get work at all.

Old crone Jeannie Epper is unconvincingly represented as a pioneer stuntwoman for having long ago done trivial & easy stunts for Linda Carter's wussily twirling Wonder Woman. She is still trying to be a stunt double after a lifetime of marginal success, while considering plastic surgery or whatever it takes to stay in a game she was never likely ever to have won even in her prime. She gets oodles of praise from stunt fandom for wanting the work even in her sixties, but let's be real. Only if someone makes an exploitation documentary called Grannies Tossed Out Windows for the Fox network will she be in like Flynn. And she'd end up on the cutting room floor even for that gig, unless she breaks her hip.

She pretends to be the best friend, mentor, & mother-figure for all the younger women in the industry who're dumb enough to fall for it or have no better options. Throughout, she's really only networking for herself, & even her actual daughter got permanently injured following Ma Epper's narcissistic game. This crone well knows that if she is ever again to score a stunt job, it will be because one of the young women who mistakenly believe the old gal really likes them will drag grandma along on the journey if & when any of them ever get a job themselves. Which is exactly what happens when Zoe dredges up a side-gig for Jeannie during the filming of Kill Bill.

Now my representation of this documentary is probably not what the documentarian intended, though it might be. It certainly won't be what everyone is willing to see in it. It is only the subtext that reveals the physically & socially injurious nature of the industry while the hag & other side-minions struggle to use the documentary to jump-start their dubious careers, hoping they come off well though they rarely do.

The director does not get close to the very great danger except in a coda to the film which informs us Zoe was injured after the documentary was completed. In general Double Dare strives for a rosy-tinted picture of what only in the subtext is nightmarish.

If the director fully realized how appalling were everyone except the endearing & comparatively innocent Xena stand-in, her camera's eye remains too aloof to telegraph a directorial opinion. Indeed, many will be able to view this film never realizing what a bunch of calculating almost-rans & deserving losers most of these boozin' smokin' child-endangering praise-jesus hilljanes really are.

The film takes a few halfhearted sub-feminist stabs at blaming men for everything that has failed in these women's semi-professional lives, & they start a stuntwoman organization designed primarily to keep rival women out & secondarily to give each other awards.

Some viewers may fall for all this & may think these women deserve better than they have thus far or are ever likely to achieve. But every one of them is hoping to ride the coattails of Zoe, the only one in the group who really does deserve the best, & Zoe's innocence is genuine enough that she probably will help even the least of those she surpasses, if she can. She may never realize their foremost emotion was never love & friendship, but envy & self-interest.

Even if a viewer gazed only at the rosy-tinted surface, Double Dare is an intriguing little film whether or not one can bear to look at the sinister ugliness of its subtext. The ugly bits which it only half reveals may have been captured accidentally but inevitably, or may have been directorial & editing genius. I'll have to see Amanda Micheli's future films before I'll be able to gauge whether she's a genius at savage subtext, or her camera just accidentally catches a lot of unwanted reality.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl



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