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Movie Reviews : 'Sticky Fingers' Charms With Lilt, Sassiness

May 06, 1988|MICHAEL WILMINGTON

Many of the new all-girl buddy-buddy comedies are arch variations on their all-boy counterparts, but "Sticky Fingers" (selected theaters) has some lilt and sass. It's erratic but charming: a crazy-quilt fable about how money can destroy friendships and how answered prayers can be more terrifying than unanswered ones.

In the movie, two Manhattan roommates and street musicians, gorgeous violinist Hattie (Helen Slater) and Angst- ridden cellist Lolly (Melanie Mayron), are suddenly delivered from their financial hell by a windfall of $900,000--left after their pot dealer's hurried exit.

Will they succumb to temptation, with their rent months in arrears? Of course, or there's no movie. Will every wild complication imaginable--obsessive shopping sprees, romantic fiascoes, lost bags and pursuit by relentless cops and crooks--explode in their street ingenue faces? Yes, again.

"Sticky Fingers" begins rather badly. The first few dialogue scenes seem unspontaneous; there's a shallow sitcom brassiness to the lines and delivery. And the pairing of Mayron and Slater doesn't click right away. They don't project the intermeshing, near-telepathic ease of old roomies.

But the movie picks up energy and spirit as it goes along. The situations are predictable but sprightly, and some of the characters--Mayron's Lolly, her buddy Evanston (Danitra Vance) and the downstairs landlady combo of salty Eileen Brennan and space-case Carol Kane--become, in their own way, delightful. And there's a nice touch of morality to the fable: the exaltation of friendship over the seductions of shopping and money.

Director-co-writer Catlin Adams and star-co-writer Mayron juggle the cliches well. Probably because they're working outside the major studios, they don't let the material go sterile, flat or over-developed, the fate of a bigger-budget fiasco like "Who's That Girl?"

Mayron--who seemed to have a copyright on shaggy outsiders in the '70s, in movies like "Harry and Tonto" or "Girl Friends"--makes Lolly the most consistently funny of the characters (with the possible exception of Kane) and the most touching. There's a naked charge to her scenes, an unabashed emotional grab that makes them work. She touches off little rushes of frenzy or demented energy which then feed back into the comedy.

Adams and Mayron take a risky step here. Their low-budget movie is really a copy of the major-studio genres, usually a recipe for disaster.

But "Sticky Fingers" (MPAA-rated: PG-13, for one vulgarity) is an exception, a more likable, entertaining movie than most of its above-ground equivalents, "Outrageous Fortune," "Casual Sex?" "Modern Girls," or even "Desperately Seeking Susan," which has more visual flair but less likable characters. Their one major failing, a flaw of most movies like this, is the male characters, who tend to be one-note duds or studs. But that's almost an occupational hazard of the all-girl buddy-buddy comedy; it's even an amusing reversal after years of similarly cliched women in the buddy-boy movies. Turnabout--even in cliches--can be fair play.

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