Mini’s First Time
Review By: Stephen Snart
If I was in a bind and talking rather broadly, I might say that comedy is my favorite genre. However, my palate isn't always receptive to comedies of the darkest variety. I don't mean to say I can only enjoy a comedy if it is cuddly and innocuous. I always admire a movie that can evoke humor out of pain and suffering. For example, a movie like the James L. Brooks masterpiece, Terms of Endearment manages to combine belly laughs with maudlin traits like unhappy marriages and incurable diseases. But when the laughs are derived from spiteful revenge plots and senseless beatings, the film has to be either incredibly witty or artistically accomplished like Fargo. So, I begin by saying, Mini's First Time does not appeal to my sense of humor.
The film tells a Lolita-esque story of the most warped variety. Mini (Nikki Reed) is a spoiled, 18-year-old High School senior. She lives in Los Angeles with her alcoholic lush of a mother, Diane (Carrie-Anne Moss) and her uninvolved stepfather Martin (Alec Baldwin). Martin is constantly working and rarely at home. Meanwhile, Diane sets a perfect example for her teenage daughter by tramping around the house with a series of one night stands or bluntly telling Mini when a skirt makes her thighs look fat because as, she puts it, "If I don't, then who will?"Â
As an escape from her lewd home life and the drudgery of high school, Mini becomes obsessed with accomplishing as many "first times"Â as possible. This quickly leads the promiscuous teenager to join a local call-girl agency. On her second night out, she runs into a crisis of conscious when she finds out the job is her stepfather Martin. Mini looks at the situation as a perfect opportunity for a first time of epic proportions and goes through with the job "” turning off the lights so that Martin does not realize what (or rather, who) he is engaging in until after the act. Many films would carefully work up to an unfathomably distasteful scenario like this and place it around the end of the second act. Instead, first time writer/director Nick Guthe places it at the very beginning and the film grows around it "” at least plot-wise if not through maturation.
After their fortuitous tryst, Martin and Mini decide that they are in love and continue their relationship right under the nose of the drugged-out Diane. Eventually, they tire of sneaking around and hatch a plan to make Diane come off as psychotically unbalanced. That way, she can be committed to an institution since Martin didn't have the foresight to sign a prenuptial agreement, which would have enabled him to get a divorce and have all the unsavory, underage relationships he wants!
The plan involves Mini stealing Ritalin from the school nurse and overmedicating her Mother, causing her to act even more insane than usual in social situations. With all the attention this garners, John Garson (Luke Wilson), a local detective arrives on the case and breathes a fresh air of morality into the film. Wilson uses his trademark gosh-darn geniality to perfect effect, giving a performance that ranks alongside The Royal Tenenbaums and The Family Stone as the best of his career. His performance is so good, and almost substantial enough, that it warrants a viewing for him alone. However, the rest of the film is chock full of nasty double crossings and vengeful acts. Diane is an unlikable character from the start but she is dealt with in such a vicious manner that the potential for humor is stifled. There are also a couple of violent beatings that I think are supposed to be played for laughs but just come off as cruel and merciless. In particularly, a never-ending brawl between Baldwin and Mike Rudell (Jeff Goldblum), a smarmy television producer is quite painful. As for the titular Mini, Reed fearlessly plays her without any sense of remorse or humanity. Based on this film and her role in Thirteen, her parents really must not care at all about the indecent nature of her projects.
Shot as a sunny side up film-noir (shadows and thugs are replaced by sun-streaked locales and wealthy scumbags), Mini's First Time is an ugly movie that feasts upon broken taboos and spiteful comeuppance. Guthe even designs the movie so that the viewer falls prey to Mini in the same way as her fictional victims by titillating us with glimpses of a scantily clad Reed only to scold us later for our salacious thoughts by not fulfilling our desires "” which is one of the few moral things that the film does, considering she was only seventeen at the time of production. Then, most insultingly, it verbally lambastes us through Mini's closing line of dialogue. While this approach is admirable in its consistency, a satisfying movie it does not make.
Movie Grade: C
Mini’s First Time, starring Nikki Reed, proves that having it all comes at a steep price. Mini has a deep loathing for her embittered gold digging mother, Diane (Carrie-Anne Moss). But, Mini has an idea: she is going to follow in the footsteps of her dear mother and get what she wants, when she wants it. The first and most important step is becoming the apple of her very rich stepfather’s (Alec Baldwin) eye. With a little coaxing, she persuades him that life would be a lot more fun without mom around.