Under the Cherry Moon

Prince preens, Jerome minces, but it is SO not gay
★★
☆☆☆☆
Released: 
1986
Director: 
Prince
Starring: 
Prince, Kristen Scott Thomas, Jerome Benton, Steven Berkoff
The Setup: 
Prince and Jerome from The Time are high-priced gigolos in the South of France. Then Prince falls in love with some rich woman, and forced romance with much preening ensue.
Discussion: 

Prince hit big while I was in High School. We all thought "Erotic City" was SO scandalous. He said the F word, you know. I remember people walking around school with their hair all sprayed up and wearing full-length purple coats covered in buttons. Enthusiasm waned as his post Purple Rain albums became ever-less explicable, and this movie came out, and by the time I was in college people only admitted to still liking his music in self-depreciating "I'm such a dork" tones.

He never thrilled me all that much. I saw him in concert with my friends a few times and I had a few of this albums [including Parade, the one containing the music from this movie, which I considered pretty good at the time. I think I have sold my CD in the meantime, though I'd like to have it back now]. This movie got such bad reviews and just looked so outright DUMB [plus by that time everyone was becoming aware that Prince was a bit self-indulgent, and if he's directing this movie himself.] that I never saw it until just now.

The point of all this reflection? It is because NO WAY did I remember Prince being such an all-out preening QUEEN! I knew he was a bit precious and highly overdramatic, but nothing prepared me for the first scene of this film, in which he plays a white piano while making eyes every which way, running his fingers over his lips, and making all sorts of mincing faces as he is besieged with notes from older women who are NATURALLY driven into paroxysms of LUST by the three-feet-tall mixed-race pianist. It seems that Prince and his pal Tricky, played by Jerome Benton of The Time, also pretty darn Nellie, are gigolos living off the bored rich older women of somewhere in the South of France. Monte Carlo? Is that is the South of France?

I don't have so much of a problem with Prince being so Nellie [actually I don't care for it in general, but that I suppose has more to do with my own internalized homophobia than anything], but I am curious how his and Jerome's antics played in the Black community. WHAT do they think about this? Do they think "Oh, that's just Prince," or is he a sort of "type," or what? Or was it considered outré? I really don't know, and I'm curious. The way Jerome hangs out with Prince while he's in a bath, the way they are constantly making affectionate homoerotic jokes about their love for one another, and their general constantly prancing about demeanor. Prince carries it off as though he's an ingénue, a constant object of others' lust, while Jerome carries it off as though everything he does is a parody of someone else.

Anyway, so soon enough Prince meets Kristen Scott Thomas, who you will recall went on to be in The English Patient and Gosford Park and THE HORSE WHISPERER [which is looking like a great candidate for review on this site right about now]. She is some sort of rich girl with the requisite stuffy parents and obligatory guy she's promised to in marriage who of course she doesn't love and who of course her parents are pressuring her to marry for more financial than romantic reasons. Does it sound like an archetypal story? Like a new spin on classic themes? That's too bad, because it's actually a totally 17th-generation copy of every other lovers-from-two-different-worlds movie you've ever seen. Only this one stars a three-foot-tall mixed-race preening megalomaniac.

It's all fairly good natured, and it's short, so that's a blessing. And it has Prince music, though he only has one actual performance, and then essentially a music video under the end credits. The whole thing is deeply steeped in Prince's worldview of what is attractive and appealing; in a word, HIM, and whatever he does. If I was Kristen's character, I would get pretty tired of all the posing and preening and midriff-baring shirts and huge white fluffy coats and hopping into the backseat and posing silently after I've just asked a question, not to mention all the questions in response to questions, and by the time he left me in bed with his POETRY, it would be all over. Basically by the time anyone presents their poetry, to me at least, I am rendered impotent from that moment forward.

Nevertheless, Kristen falls for it, as movie heroines usually do, and soon she and Prince are canoodling in a cave that just HAPPENS to have a tasteful array of candles scattered about. And Kristen shoots off some stinging retorts to her parents, and we all go through some entirely unmotivated scenes, none of which has any real resonance, until we come to the conclusion. But as I said, it's all fairly good natured and genial, so you can kind of get into it and go with it if you don't find Prince himself too annoying. Jerome is actually quite charming. Kristen isn't bad, but everything, including her, is part of the whole Prince worldview, which has never appealed to me.

Eventually the thing grinds to a rather sudden but not entirely surprising conclusion that stays true to the sense of overdramatization of it all. Then we have what is essentially a music video for "Mountains." I was surprised how pleasant it was to see Wendy and Lisa again. Yay Wendy and Lisa!

Should you watch it: 

Depends on your tolerance for Prince and his music and his aesthetic and his fashion decisions. Even then, this is by no means a good movie, but it's not unpleasant, and it's just over 90 minutes, so that's a plus.