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‘Whore’ (NC-17)

By Hal Hinson
Washington Post Staff Writer
November 11, 1991

Stop the presses!!! Ken Russell has had a brainstorm. It's dawned on him that a hooker's life is no day at the beach. That's the revelation at the heart of his atrocious new film, "Whore," and for those of us who believed heart and soul in the flowery depiction of prostitution presented by Julia Roberts in "Pretty Woman" it's certainly an eye-opener. File it under "Things that make you go 'hmmmm . . .' "

How could we have been so naive? According to Liz, the jaded streetwalker played by Theresa Russell, there are all kinds of occupational bummers. The hours are lousy, there are no health benefits and the johns are all weird. None of her customers wants to use protection. Isn't that nutty? And for some reason they all want to kiss her. Yecch! Then, on top of all that, you have pimps to deal with. And guess what? They're mostly low-life parasites. What is this world coming to?

With "Whore," Russell pulls off a rare feat; he manages to be both lurid and tedious at the same time. The film, which was adapted from the play by David Hines, plays like a night school survey study of prostitution -- it's Streetwalking 101. For the most part, the director has taken a day-in-the-life approach to his subject, with Liz delivering long monologues about the travails of her career straight into the camera. The whole affair has a kind of dinner theater air to it. It's hopelessly amateurish and banal. Russell, who put on a few pounds for the role, has a few high-camp comic moments, but it's often hard to tell if she's intentionally bad or just plain blowing it. There's little confusion about the film as a whole, though -- it's flat-out awful. At any rate, guess I'll hang on to my day job.

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