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'Sticky Fingers' (PG-13)

By Hal Hinson
Washington Post Staff Writer
May 07, 1988

You can tell a picture's a girl picture because it deals with girl stuff -- shopping, dieting and which sponge is the "dish" sponge and which is the "surface" sponge. Also, in girl movies a fair amount of time is spent in closets. Boy movies never deal with this stuff. Boy movies are about guns and cars and ... well, guns. Boy movies almost never have closets.

Brother, are boy movies dumb.

It's hard to say whether "Sticky Fingers," which was directed by Catlin Adams, is about a pair of struggling young musicians, Hattie and Lolly, played by Helen Slater and Melanie Mayron (who cowrote the script with Adams), or about shoes. Shoes and earrings. But there's never any doubt as to which receives the most loving attention.

The film's story turns on a bag full of money that is left in the young women's apartment by a drug-peddling ex-attorney. The women view this windfall as seed money for their budding careers and promptly set about spending it. And to say that Adams pays more attention to the shoes isn't really a criticism -- the shoes in "Sticky Fingers" are darling. (I particularly liked Melanie Mayron's ribbon-laced brogans.) And much more deserving of attention than the plot.

In fact, the film's charms, which are not negligible, come almost completely from the cheeky bits of personality Adams has jammed into the margins. If a character wears floppy white socks and clunky, round-rimmed glasses, then we know that she's spry and smart and stylishly offbeat in a particularly chic, New York sort of way. Style, in other words, is more than decoration -- it's character.

And if set decoration and costume design were all there were to filmmaking, then Adams would be a real discovery. Unfortunately, other skills are required, such as a sense of where to position the camera or of how to tell a story, neither of which Adams has a very sure grasp of. She's not bad with actors, though. Slater and Mayron make a fetching pair -- more fetching, perhaps, than talented, but fetching nonetheless. And breezy if rather insubstantial supporting performances are contributed by Eileen Brennan, Loretta Devine and Carol Kane. It's Christopher Guest, though, as Lolly's perplexing boyfriend, who has the film's best moment. Accused by Lolly of missing all her mother's seders, he shouts back, "Don't dangle that seder stuff. Don't you talk seder to me, because seder is kugel and kugel is poop."

The movie has a little style, but Adams isn't able to sustain it. What she's able to sustain, though, is its unflagging high spirits. "Sticky Fingers" may not amount to anything more than mindless fluff, but it's companionable, ingratiating fluff. For a girl movie.

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