Created by Alan Rudolph
“She’s dead now. She’s never gonna be the same again.”
Back in 1990, cult writer/director (and Robert Altman protegée) Alan Rudolph scored big with Love at Large, a quirky but charming screwball noir meditation on love, the games people play, and old detective films. It featured Tom Berenger and Elizabeth Perkins as star-crossed rival private eyes who fumble and bumble into love. Not exactly a box office smasheroo, but it’s always been one of my favourite little movies nobody’s heard of.
Rudolph worked similar turf in Trixie (2000) ten years later, but from the mostly negative (or at least confused) feedback I’ve heard, lightning apparently didn’t strike twice. Or hardly anybody got it.
This time all those potentially endearingly offbeat touches evidently just annoyed the hell out of people. At least in the U.S.
Me? Maybe I’m a sucker for this sort of stuff, but I liked it. Waifish, cute-as-a-button, watery-eyed Emily (Angela’s Ashes) Watson played TRIXIE ZURBO, a ditzy, gum-popping, malapropism-spouting Chicago private eye, reduced to working as a casino security guard. She’s just dying to crack a big case. She gets her chance to prove she has the right stuff when she stumbles across a murder, and her chief suspect turns out to be a pompous, philandering state senator (played by Nick Nolte to greasy perfection). Her investigation soon uncovers some rather nasty links between the senator and the mob.
It’s no Love at Large, but it worked for me.
Also along for the ride were Dermot Mulroney, Nathan Lane, Brittany Murphy, Lesley Ann Warren, Will Patton and Stephen Lang.
- “Alan Rudolph’s “screwball film noir” (his definition) is a bit like Choose Me cast with buffoons–a handsome, smoothly directed, shaggy-dog mystery populated by thoroughly offbeat characters. Emily Watson plays… Trixie Zurbo, a security guard who wants to be a private detective. It’s kind of like Gracie Allen trying to play Lauren Bacall in a Bogey film with a babble of mangled clichés and screwy punch lines.”
- “If this movie had come out in the 1940s, people would know it and love it. In fact, that’s a major part of Rudolph’s immense charm as a director. His movies feel out of time. They exist in the world of his imagination, and that’s wonderful; it’s made me feel like it’s okay, even joyous, to break from reality, to blend the real with the mythical, to let stories grow wild and free.”
— William Boyle (March 2019, CrimeReads)
- “I believe in taking the bull by the tail and staring him right in the eye.”
- “No, you can’t have a drink, you are not drinking yourself into Bolivia.”
- “The sword of damocles is hanging over pandora’s box…”
- “When I get on the trail of somebody, I’m going to find him by hook or by ladder.”
- Nolte’s over-the-top incoherent, almost surreal speeches are purportedly borrowed verbatim from those of actual elected officials. According to Alan Rudolph, “Nick plays a corrupt politician, which is kind of a redundant statement.”
- TRIXIE | Buy this DVD
(2000, Pandora Cinema/Sandcastle 5 Productions)
Tagline: “The only crime she couldn’t solve was the murder of the English language.”
Story by Alan Rudolph and John Binder
Screenplay by Alan Rudolph
Directed by Alan Rudolph
Produced by Robert Altman
Co-producer: Joseph Patrick Finn
Executive producer: James McLindon
Original music by Mark Isham and Roger Neill
Starring Emily Watson as TRIXIE ZURBO
Also starring Dermot Mulroney, Nick Nolte, Nathan Lane, Brittany Murphy, Lesley Ann Warren, Will Patton, Stephen Lang, Mark Acheson, Vincent Gale, Jason Schombing, Robert Moloney, Troy Yorke