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STATESIDE **

CAST: Jonathan Tucker, Rachael Leigh Cook, Agnes Bruckner, Val Kilmer, Joe Mantegna, Carrie Fisher, Ed Begley Jr., Diane Venora, Penny Marshall, Daniel Franzese, Zena Grey, Michael Goduti, Caryn Greenhut, Brian Geraghty

WRITER/DIRECTOR: Reverge Anselmo

The belles of St. Mary's Catholic High School are not your garden-variety sluts. Beneath their neatly pressed uniforms, they are onward Christian students devoutly marching off to moonlit trysts with stoned studs. And the most devil-may-care coed of all is Sue Dubois (a.k.a. Sue of the D'ubervilles), a nymph in perpetual heat who can hardly wait to get home so she can jot down the details of a rapturous blow job in the diary she conceals inside her teddy bear.

Somewhat surprisingly, all of this feverish activity takes place in superficially conservatve Connecticut during the early eighties, a time and place shamefully short on soul--not to mention common sense--according to writer-director Reverge Anselmo, who claims this brazen, hysterical, lyrical, poignantly over-the-top tale is based at least a little on his own experiences growing up.

I hope the stuff about the abduction of Sue Dubois is pure fiction. It's difficult to describe, but it goes something like this: One night, having skipped her homework in favor of having a little fun, Sue can be found romping and rolling with classmate Gregory in the back seat of his car. Indeed, Sue is found romping and rolling--by Danny, the virginal younger brother of Gregory, and Danny's equally virginal friend Mark. Faster than Gregory can zip up his trousers, Danny and Mark, who've had far too many brews, yank squealing Sue from the back seat, dump her in their own car, and are soon whizzing down the dark highway. Mark, at the wheel, can't seem to keep his eyes off the half-naked Sue, which is why he crashes into another car, thereby instantly crippling its driver--Father Concoff, the dizzy head priest of St. Mary's--and knocking out a few of Sue's front teeth.

Sue's missing front teeth are the least of her problems, however. Her iceberg of a mom, having discovered the secret inside the teddy bear, pops up at Sue's hospital bedside and starts reading aloud a passage from Sue's diary that would bring a blush to Henry Miller's cheek. This sends Sue shrieking and flailing out of her bed and down the hallway and, before long, into a state-run loony bin.

But enough about Sue. The movie is mainly about Mark, the careless driver whose mother recently died and whose father is the meanest--and perhaps wealthiest--man in town. After punching the hell out of Mark for driving under the influence, his well-connected dad cuts a deal with the authorities whereby his son, instead of going to prison, is given the opportunity to enlist in the Marines. Which turns out not to be a good deal, since Mark's sadistic drill instructor at Parris Island, South Carolina, could teach the gang at Abu Ghraib a few tricks.

Does Mark find love, at least? Yes, with a schizophrenic pop singer/failed movie star who is the roommate of--you guessed it--Sue Dubois in a half-way house that is seemingly located somewhere in the vicinity of Manhattan's Greenwich Village. But that's before Mark winds up at a Marine base in Beirut. I won't tell you how he survives the suicide bombing there, but I will say the movie has a happy ending! Sort of.

Why should you care? Probably you shouldn't. Yet, as silly, sloppy and essentially pointless as it is, "Stateside" does manage to hold you. Anselmo's manipulation of images is skillful, and in one instance--a montage of brutally punishing military drills--mesmerizing, in a bizarrely Busby Berkeleyesque way. And, while he has not inbued his characters with much in the way of psychological nuance, Anselmo has drawn commandingly colorful performances from Jonathan Tucker as Mark; Agnes Bruckner as Sue; Val Kilmer as the Parris Island drill demon; Joe Mantegna as Mark's callous father, and--in what are surely meant to be hilarious turns--Carrie Fisher as Sue's venomously unforgiving mother; Ed Begley Jr. as an uptight priest thrown for a loop by a student's vivid essay on onanism, and Penny Marshall as a sicko nurse in an understaffed veterans' hospital.

As for Rachael Leigh Cook in the part of Dori Lawrence, the schizoid love of Mark's life, this mugging, twitching starlet has nowhere to go but up. --GUY FLATLEY