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Plush DVD Review

Plush (2013) movie poster Plush

Theatrical Release: September 13, 2013 / Running Time: 99 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Catherine Hardwicke / Writers: Catherine Hardwicke, Arty Nelson

Cast: Emily Browning (Hayley St. Claire), Xavier Samuel (Enzo), Cam Gigandet (Carter), Dawn Olivieri (Annie), Thomas Dekker (Jack St. Claire), Frances Fisher (Camilla), Elizabeth Peña (Dr. Lopez), Brandon Jay McLaren (Butch Hopkins/Writer), Marlene Ortez (Dr. Ortiz), Bradley Metcalf (Twin), Jack Metcalf (Twin), Travis Metcalf (Twin), Kennedy Waite (Lila), Steve Asbury (Donnie/Drummer), Marcus AK Andersson (Diego/Bass Player), James Kyson (Coat & Tie Fan), Indira G. Wilson (Limo Driver)

Buy Plush from Amazon.com: DVD • Instant Video

In Twilight, Catherine Hardwicke scored one of film's biggest hits ever directed by a woman. After nearly twenty years in production design, Hardwicke made her writing and directing debuts on the acclaimed 2003 indie drama Thirteen. Two movies later, she landed the task of helming the first adaptation of Stephenie Meyer's bestselling series of supernatural teen romance novels.
Though some doubted the female-friendly books would translate to box office success in a male-oriented industry, the 2008 movie recouped its $37 million budget many times over. Hardwicke became the rare female filmmaker with a hit to her name, joining a list that didn't run much longer than comedy specialists Penny Marshall, Nora Ephron, and Nancy Meyers.

Hardwicke was all set to hang on to the director's chair for the second installment in what was being officially established as a saga, until she realized the sequel's scheduled release date of exactly one year later was inflexible. Both perspectives are easy to appreciate. Aware that this teen-centric series was unlikely to have the longevity of Harry Potter, Summit Entertainment fast-tracked production of what would end up being five films released in a stretch of four years. Meanwhile, Hardwicke wasn't about to sacrifice the artistic credibility she earned on films like Thirteen and Lords of Dogtown for a big payday on a rushed production.

With an easily-found replacement director, the franchise soared to new heights commercially, but reviews plunged from mixed to decidedly negative. Hardwicke had as much time as she needed to direct 2011's very Twilighty Red Riding Hood, a critically drubbed flop.

"Plush" finds rock singer Hayley St. Claire (Emily Browning) in an awkward position with her new guitarist Enzo (Xavier Samuel).

Hardwicke returns to directing and, for the first time since Thirteen, writing on Plush, a film whose release suggests the stand that the filmmaker took for artistic integrity may have been professional suicide. This R-rated film, proudly billing itself "an erotic thriller", could only secure release in ten theaters last month from new distributor IM Global. At the end of its one-week engagement, it had grossed $3,080, probably less than what the concessions stand at a small town movie theater earned at a midnight showing of one of the Twilight sequels.

Co-scripted by Arty Nelson, a staff writer and story editor on HBO's "How to Make It in America", Plush opens with the image of a not clearly seen young woman being evidently crushed to death by a manmade avalanche of pebbles. That doesn't seem to directly relate to Hayley St. Claire (Emily Browning), a young rock star struggling to overcome the death of her brother and lifelong guitarist Jack (Thomas Dekker) from an apparent overdose. Hayley dyes her hair blonde and hopes for her career to move forward with the hiring of new guitarist Enzo (Xavier Samuel).

Hayley's newest work, full of personal songs about her brother and his death, is criticized in the blogosphere and not well-received by the public either. And though manager Annie (Dawn Olivieri) has a multi-faceted plan of action for such a slow reception, this movie isn't really about Hayley's music.

A positive pregnancy test instantly complicates life for Hayley St. Claire (Emily Browning). Journalism keeps Hayley's husband (Cam Gigandet) occupied while she travels.

It is about Hayley's complicated relationship with Enzo. Married to a journalist (Cam Gigandet) with whom she has young twin sons,
Hayley is reluctant to get mixed up with the glam bisexual Enzo, but a romance begins with a sexual back massage and quickly develops into some kinky bondage.

Hayley's professional woes suddenly take a backseat to her tumultuous personal life, which comes to include an unplanned pregnancy not likely to be the miraculous 1 in 2,000 to occur following a vasectomy, which her husband had following the birth of their kids.

Hayley's life seems endangered and the culprit seems to be one of three men in her life: a stalky superfan; her husband, whose crime writing requires a stomach for the macabre; and superfan turned bandmate and fling Enzo, who has suddenly assumed a prominent presence in the life of her family and even lands the job of directing Hayley's new music video after the label slashes her budget. Perhaps the vaguely creepy new nanny (Frances Fisher) merits suspicion too.

Plush abandons its behind-the-scenes of rock stardom design in its final act to become a straight thriller pitting Hayley against her tormentor. It's not very appealing in its dark finale, but then neither is it in its construction and exploration of Hayley's work struggles. Really, there is little to like about this film in any of its forms.

Worthy of some notice, nonetheless, are the committed lead performances by Browning, who can sing (as she evidently did in Sucker Punch), and Samuel, who can do creepy and isn't above showing his butt tattooed with a co-star's face on it. Twilight alum Gigandet only gets to ooze decency with a trace of menace as Hayley's reliable work-at-home husband.

Perhaps Plush is more to Hardwicke's tastes, which skewed quite indie until the hunky vampires and angsty lip-biter came calling for her. But it's clearly not the shot of adrenaline her directing career needs right now. Hardwicke has already transitioned to the small screen, albeit in one of its most admirable forms, by directing an episode of AMC's "Hell on Wheels" and "Low Winter Sun." She has since reteamed with Gigandet, directing the pilot of the CBS crime drama "Reckless", which will apparently premiere mid-season sometime.

Meanwhile, Millennium Entertainment releases Plush today to DVD, but not Blu-ray.

Plush DVD cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com DVD Details

1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English), Dolby Stereo 2.0 (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Release Date: October 15, 2013
Suggested Retail Price: $19.99
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5)
Black Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available on Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Plush appears in 1.78:1 widescreen, enhanced for 16:9 televisions, of course. The DVD's fine transfer shows off the stylized visuals, which often assume either a yellow or blue tint. The default Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is equally strong, though it does suffer from the peaks and valleys you more typically on effects-heavy action flicks. A Dolby 2.0 stereo mix is also offered, along with English SDH and Spanish subtitles.

Xavier Samuel approaches the camera with a knife in "Enzo Unleashed." Cam Gigandet gives his short wife's blonde head a kiss on the Plush DVD main menu.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Plush's small, unorthodox collection of DVD extras begins with what I guess you could call a music video. "Half of Me Remix" (2:28),
Enzo's retooling of Hayley's tribute to her brother, is set to trippily stylized imagery from the film.

"Enzo Unleashed" (2:15) basically serves up outtakes of Xavier Samuel, acting out somewhat in character.

The bonus content concludes with two teaser trailers (1:08 & 1:10), each with timecodes and watermarks suggesting they weren't finalized or used to promote the film's 1-week, 10-theater engagement.

The DVD opens with 13½ minutes of full theatrical trailers for Hell Baby, What Maisie Knew, Stuck in Love, The Iceman, Upside Down, and As I Lay Dying. To these, the Previews menu adds a trailer for the JFK assassination drama Parkland, but none for Plush.

The main menu plays clips from the film in a fractured layout resembling the cover design. Submenus provide a static, silent application of the same motif.

The plain black keepcase holds no inserts, but is topped by a slipcover reproducing the same artwork.

New guitarist Enzo (Xavier Samuel) gets unnecessarily close to rock singer Hayley St. Claire (Emily Browning) as she sings about her late brother in "Plush."

CLOSING THOUGHTS

With Plush, Catherine Hardwicke proves she is capable of making a movie just as bad as the lesser Twilight sequels. The director can't blame a rushed production schedule or a weak source, because this was no tentpole which she herself co-wrote. At times, the looks at a rock star's life can be taken seriously, but they give way to a pulpy thriller with no obvious appeal.

A fine feature presentation and seven minutes of unusual, inconsequential extras do nothing to elevate this DVD into recommendation territory.

Buy Plush from Amazon.com: DVD / Instant Video

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Related Reviews:
Directed by Catherine Hardwicke: Red Riding Hood | New: Stuck in Love
Emily Browning: Magic Magic • The Uninvited | Xavier Samuel: The Loved Ones • The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
Cam Gigandet: The Roommate • Easy A • Seal Team Six: The Raid on Osama Bin Laden • The Experiment • Priest
Musicians: The Runaways • Rock of Ages • Greetings from Tim Buckley • Don't Stop Believin': Everyman's Journey
From Female Directors: Zero Dark Thirty • A League of Their Own • Please Give • The Kids Are All Right

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Reviewed October 15, 2013.



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