Stink Whispers Movie Vault – Satisfaction

Release Date: February 12, 1988
Starring: Justine Bateman, Liam Neeson, Julia Roberts
SW Grade: Slightly Fucking Awesome

What would we do baby, without us?
What would we do baby, without us?
And there ain’t not nothin’ we can’t pull each other through.
What would we do baby, without us?
Sha na na na.

If you are anything like me, hearing that collection of broken grammar and hippie half-speak sung over two decades ago signified the highlight of your week. That spine-tingling moment when Mallory Keaton, a.k.a. Justine Bateman, walked into your life for a 30 minute burst of laughter and beauty on the ABC hit-com Family Ties. Sure, Michael J. Fox had the legions of fans. Sure, Michael Gross had the natural dramatic ability. Sure, Tina Yothers had…she had…well…okay, Tina Yothers brought everybody down. But the show was—and will always be—about that enigma in leg warmers, Mallory.

I can only imagine what the casting call for Mallory’s character must’ve been like. Executives must have ripped apart the streets of Hollywood in search of an actress of such depth and versatility that she could somehow exude both incredible fashion sense and unrivaled stupidity at the same time. I shudder to think what might have become of Family Ties had the search not found its conclusion with Justine Bateman. Creeps me out.

For a long time, however, the world was only able to get their Justine fix in 30-minute doses. And much like the most popular addictive narcotics of the day, short periods of Justine were simply not enough. People were crying for more of Jason Bateman’s older sister. And they were crying tears of pure love. [Note: Until recently, people had ceased crying for Jason Bateman shortly after Teen Wolf Too.]

Meanwhile, miles away, in a tin shack the size of a filing cabinet, an upstart writer named Charles Purpura had unwittingly found the answer so many Justine junkies had been searching for. In an attempt to write a big-screen rock n’ roll drama that would rival Purple Rain, the modern-day Shakespeare penned a screenplay about four attractive women, one dorky guy, and their collective dream of rock ’n’ roll stardom. The script was tentatively titled Purpura Rain—later changed to Satisfaction—and was sure to be the star vehicle that would launch some young actress’s career through the roof.

After turning down Liz Taylor, Lonnie Anderson, and Jack Lemmon for the lead role of Jennie Lee, director Joan Freeman settled on the woman who made low IQ sexy again. Yes, that’s right, Justine Bateman had her first major studio film lead.

Bateman would play Jennie, the lead singer of an all-woman-with-one-extremely-spazzy-guy band called “Mystery.” The only real mystery, incidentally, is how the band decided upon Jennie as their lead singer. While beautiful in a Mallory-esque sort of way, Jennie sounded very similar to an inconsolable deaf-mute I encountered while working in the shoe department at Kohl’s while in college. The woman was ranting and raving about an item she had bought earlier in the week, but I, for the life of me, couldn’t tell what she was saying. Nothing short of employee-of-the-month material, I paged the store manager, who upon arrival, blankly nodded his head in a similar fashion to my head-nodding moments earlier. I can’t remember exactly what happened with that woman, but I like to tell human rights activists that we chained her to a pallet in the freight elevator and threw defective shoes at her. Fun is fun.

Back to the story. The rebellious quintet is so sure that they’ll be the next incarnation of the Beatles that they refuse to write or play any of their own music, instead settling for the cover songs played at my Uncle Bill’s second wedding.

Mystery gets its first break headlining every single night and twice on Sundays at a swinging club in a non-descript wealthy summer resort town. The club’s owner Martin Falcon—played by a pre-Taken Liam Neeson—hires the group out of sheer pity, but grows to love their uniquely plageristic sound. And while we never know if Falcon’s character is hearing-impaired, we do know that he is smitten with Jennie.

As an interesting side note, Julia Roberts makes a co-starring appearance as bassist Daryle Shane—her first and last appearance as a character named Daryle. Roberts shows the acting chops that earned her an Academy Award years later for Erin Brockovich. In one tension-filled scene, Daryle is playing her bass guitar during the band’s now-infamous cover of “Knock on Wood,” when she is forced to pluck two strings at once. This is the same move that nearly ended the career of Katherine Hepburn decades earlier, but a confident Roberts nails both the note and the scene. She was later heard spouting sports clichés like, “I just try to take it one day at a time” and “I can’t control what anybody else does, just what I do.”

As the band takes its first steps on the path to stardom, they encounter a variety of comical mishaps not seen since the heyday of Jerry Louis or Garrett Morris, the most gut-busting of which include one member having sex in a van for hours on end, one member getting so wasted that she nearly dies, and one member throwing a beer bottle at a member of their adoring crowd. It really is a shame that more comedians today don’t use these time-honored gags in their work? Then again, you can’t expect Will Ferrell or Dave Chapelle to be nearly as innovative as Charles Purpura.

Hijinks aside, the band rocks the monocles off the snooty locals for a few months with infectious toe-tappers like “Lies” and “Talk to Me,” before finding out that they have the opportunity to embark on a tour in Europe. One problem: Jennie has shockingly fallen in love with Martin—and she doesn’t want to leave. Now she must choose: be with the man she loves or find stardom in Europe playing a gig to four drunk Romanian men who think she looks like “good, strong American woman.”

Now we’ve all had to make a difficult decision or two in our lifetimes. I once had to choose between cleaning my toilet or just painting it white to look like it was clean. And then there was the time I was faced with the option of either letting the air out of my ex-girlfriend’s tires or breaking her windshield. God likes to give us tests like these to see if we make the right decision. Now, I won’t tell you if Jennie makes the right decision in Satisfaction, but I will ask you this: when’s the last time you heard Casey Kasem send out a Mystery song as a long-distance dedication.

But who are we kidding? Satisfaction isn’t about decisions. It’s about the music. And while this movie grossed approximately $14.75 at the box office, I have yet to understand why it didn’t succeed on the music alone. I guess sometimes a movie’s biggest star can burn so brightly that the end result burns out all too quickly. And if that’s the case, not even Justine Bateman’s glow can save you.

Sha na na na.

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