Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.


Before 1995's Leaving Las Vegas resurrected his career, Nicolas Cage made a habit of appearing in just about any batshit-crazy B-movie that let him try out a ridiculous accent, wear silly clothes, and gesticulate wildly. The Cage of Zandalee and Deadfall returns with a vengeance in Sonny, his dreadful directorial debut. A 110-minute testament to Cage's questionable judgment, Sonny stars gifted newcomer James Franco–who has the big, sad eyes and smoldering intensity of the director's younger self–as a male prostitute warped by his mother (Brenda Blethyn), who also happens to be his madam. As the film opens, Franco has just left a stint in the military, but considering the Oedipal nightmare he has waiting for him at home, it's a wonder he didn't sign up for the first available kamikaze mission. Against Blethyn's wishes, he tries to give up prostitution and snag a low-level position in the service industry, but he's sabotaged by his own mercurial temper. For Franco, life seems to hold only two options: blissful domesticity or a lifetime of drunkenly turning tricks for his mother's benefit. Blethyn is happy to perpetuate this reductive worldview. Chewing half the scenery in Louisiana and several bordering states, she plays an ironclad justification for matricide who seems to have wandered in from a road-show production of the worst play Tennessee Williams ever wrote. Like Blethyn, Sonny starts out over the top and just keeps climbing from there. The craziness peaks with a cameo that affords Cage yet another opportunity to try out a ridiculous accent (the effeminate drawl of a deranged Southern dandy), wear silly clothes (a yellow suit and ruffled shirt), and gesticulate wildly while gushing about his love of "cockaine." Phony and portentous from its first frame to its last, Sonny is bearable only during a handful of low-key scenes between Harry Dean Stanton and Seymour Cassel, two old pros smart enough to refrain from all the overacting and dopey Southern Gothic surrounding them. Writer Robert Dellinger sued the makers of Sonny, claiming he co-wrote the script without receiving proper credit, but in this case, it's less a matter of sharing the spoils than spreading the blame.


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