The term "groupie" is rife with negative implications, suggesting about as much respectability as the word "prostitute," but groupies have found unlikely champions in the mother-daughter team of Goldie Hawn and Kate Hudson. In a star-making performance, Hudson transformed the groupie into an ethereal, romantic figure in 2000's Almost Famous. Now, Hawn picks up where her daughter left off: In the surprisingly sweet The Banger Sisters, Hawn essentially plays an earthier, less idealistic version of Hudson's "band aid," several decades older and far worse for wear. As the film opens, Hawn's aging sex kitten loses her job as a bartender at a scuzzy Sunset Strip bar and heads out to visit Susan Sarandon, the other half of the titular musician-servicing duo, who has long since settled down into a life of upper-middle-class domesticity. When Hawn arrives at Sarandon's dauntingly palatial home, she's too intimidated to follow through on her plan to hit her old friend up for money, an instinct that proves prescient, given that Sarandon treats Hawn like a ghost from a past she'd rather forget. Eventually, of course, the two bond over a joint and some fond memories, although the route the film takes to get there feels surprisingly organic and leisurely. Refreshingly low-key and driven by characters rather than gags, Banger gets off to a bumpy start and runs into trouble along the way, but once it gets going, it's surprisingly warm and engaging. Though not in the league of Almost Famous, Banger shares a similar affection for its characters and an earnest belief in the transcendent power of music. In the film's best scene, the women go to a nightclub, where Sarandon, after expressing realistic reservations, eventually gives herself over to the moment. It's a touching turning point that writer-director Bob Dolman has the good taste to set to Talking Heads' "Burning Down The House," a song that allows everyone to feel as soulful as James Brown. Though aided by carefully shaded performances from Hawn, Sarandon, and Erika Christensen (as Sarandon's overachieving but insecure daughter), The Banger Sisters is minor, flawed, and meandering. But it stays true to its warmly drawn characters, an accomplishment in itself.
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