Monday, July 15, 2013

Vacation from Hell

Brokedown Palace
Director: Jonathan Kaplan
Cast: Claire Danes, Kate Beckinsale, Bill Pullman
Released in theaters: August 13, 1999




Imagine that you have gone to Thailand with your best friend for a vacation of a lifetime! Sounds fantastic, doesn't it? Now imagine that you and your friend have decided to take a daytrip to Hong Kong.  While waiting to get on the airplane, the Thai police come charging at the two of you with guns aimed at you and snatch your luggage and while searching through it they find heroin. A LOT of it. You and your friend are immediately taken into custody and thrown into a jail that's more like an internment camp.

What I just described is what happens in Brokedown Palace where Claire Danes and Kate Beckinsale play best friends Alice and Darlene who have just graduated high school. Both girls have been friends since a really young age even though Darlene is the "good", studious one and Alice is the "bad", rebellious one. Darlene is going to college in the fall and Alice, knowing they won't be seeing much of each other anymore once Darlene starts school, wants them to have one last great, memorable summer, and after talking to some of their friends, they get the idea to take a trip to Bangkok. Darlene is worried that her strict parents won't let her travel that far and Alice tells her to tell them she is going to Hawaii, which she does.

While the girls are in Bangkok, they sneak into a swanky hotel and sit out by the pool where they order drinks and Alice charges them to a random suite number. The waiter is suspicion of them and tells them that the number they gave them belongs to an older gentleman and is calling for security to escort them out. This scenario will come back and haunt them later. They are rescued by a dashing Australian lad named Nick who tells the waiter they are with him and shows him a room key he stole from the bathroom.  Nick puts his charm on both girls and convinces them to come to Hong Kong for a day. I looked at a map and Bangkok and Hong Kong are a lot further apart than what I thought. It would be like taking a vacation to San Francisco and flying to Seattle for a day. Nick tells them he will fly out the day before and they can meet him the next day. There is a reason he does this!

While the girls are waiting in line at the airport, they are unknowingly tipped off by security and soon they are surrounded by the police with guns pointed at them and they find 13 pounds of heroin! (Damn!) Alice was carrying the bag, but Darlene had packed it and both girls are wondering what is going on. They are taken into custody by the Thai police and interrogated separately. Alice refuses to sign a statement because it is in Thai and she can't read it, but Darlene gives her statement and signs it, even though it is in Thai and when she reveals this to Alice, Alice gets angry with her and asks her why would she sign something that's in a language she can't read? The document she signed was actually her confession to the crime and both girls are thrown into a woman's prison which isn't lacking on inmates. They are sentenced for 33 years - so they'll get out when they're 51.

The prison is filthy and the food is disgusting, but of course you're not excepting them to stay at the Four Seasons. Instead of having to wear those gaudy orange jumpsuits, their uniform is a purple smock, which is much better than wearing orange! Hey, you have to look on the bright side when you're in prison, right? Their hair is chopped off as soon as they get there. They get in good with an Australian and a Jamaican who show them the ropes and tell them the dos and don'ts of prison life.

Bill Pullman plays lawyer "Yankee Hank" who lives in Thailand and gets involved in their case for a fee. He does some investigating and finds out Nick, who's a drug smuggler, set them up. The girls try to escape, but get caught.

When visitors come, they have to stand on a bridge across from the prisoners and yell across at them to communicate with a bunch of other people around them yelling. Darlene's dad comes to visit them and talks to the girls separately. When he talks to Alice, he pretty much accuses her of committing the crime because she would always lie about things she didn't do in the past. It's not very clear how long the girls  have been in prison, but they have been there at least all summer because their former classmates come to visit and Darlene asks them about college.

When it's looking grim for the girls that they will be spending the next 33 years in prison, Alice begs for them to let Darlene go and that she will serve her and Darlene's term because she was the one who did it and Darlene is completely innocent. The movie ends with Darlene being released and Alice still having hope that Hank will get her out.

I think it would have been a great reveal if Alice really had been the one who had the drugs all along and was trying to find a way to make her and Darlene stay together for a long time, but no, both girls were innocent and you knew that along. Oh, well.

I saw this movie when it came out on video and I really loved the music, so I bought the soundtrack. My favorite songs are "Silence" and "Deliver Me" by Sarah Brightman, "Damaged" by Plumb,  and "Rock the Casbah" by Solar Twins. (Is it bad that I heard that version before I even knew it was a Clash song?) There's even a Nelly Furtado song on it and this was before I even knew who Nelly Furtado was. It's called "Party's Just Begun", a song I don't like, but it fit with the atmosphere of the movie.

Oh, and I would be remiss not to mention the huge controversy over the filming of this movie that got Claire Dane into some hot water. They filmed this movie in Manila and let's just say she was not impressed with the city and said some not-so-nice things about it and the people. Now she was only like 18 or 19 when she made this movie and teenage girls can say some pretty stupid things without thinking first. I'm not excusing her actions because she should have known better since she had been acting for quite awhile and should have known not to say things like that in a public forum. I remember this when it first came out, but I thought she had badmouthed Bangkok, probably because the movie was set there. She did apologize for what she said and I'm sure she's learned her lesson, but the Filipino government did ban all her movies, which I don't really think you're really missing out on anything if you can't see a Claire Danes movie (sorry Claire Danes fans!) But I wonder if they banned her TV shows? Homeland is a pretty good show...at least the first season was good. 

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