Plot: Emory (John Shea) works at a high end cabaret club, making sure the technical aspects of the place hold up, keeping the performers in the best possible light. But his professional and personal lives blend when he starts to fall for Beaty (Helen Mirren), one of the club’s dancers. She also happens to work as a prostitute at times, which Emory knew when he first got involved with her, but as his feelings have grown, so has his distaste for that side of her profession. Despite the issues, the two forge a genuine bond and it seems like they might have a chance, at least until unstable people from their pasts resurface in their lives. Emory’s old friend Max (Murray Salem) wants to bring him in on a risky drug deal, while Beaty’s former pimp Alex (Paul Angelis) is back on the scene and poses a real threat to the couple.
Entertainment Value: This one has been given a not so good reputation over the years, but I think Hussy is better than it seems to be given credit for. The narrative blends melodrama, romance, and some thriller elements, so it can be uneven, but Helen Mirren is excellent and overall, I think it is an interesting picture. I should say, it is not the erotic thriller some of the marketing materials seem to suggest, though it does take place in the cabaret world and deals with sex, relationships, and a little about how sex workers cope with growing older. None of this is explored super in depth, but there is substance to the writing here and I think the characters are well handled, which helps compensate for some of the less effective elements. The character development combines with the often darker tone to help offset the melodrama as well, though I feel that is also a natural presence in this kind of narrative. In this setting, with these kind of characters, I think it would be hard to avoid melodrama and I appreciated the little bursts of it here, while the movie was smart enough to know when to pull back. I don’t feel like Hussy ever hooked me in fully, but it was always interesting and I think it is well crafted, while Mirren is the main draw. So if you’re a fan of Mirren’s work or appreciate the grittier side of melodrama, give this one a shot.
As I said earlier, even if you might not love the movie in general, if Helen Mirren is a performer you appreciate, I think Hussy is worthwhile, even if just to watch her in another terrific performance. I like that she is given some depth to work with, but she also makes the most of both that depth and the little moments she engineers herself, really bringing her character to life. I talked before about the melodrama involved, but Mirren is able to avoid that for the most part and thanks in part to the material, take a more subtle, grounded approach. Yet she is also able to command the screen and keep us invested in her character, no small task. The main roles are all well played here, but Mirren shines and is the film’s best asset. John Shea brings a similarly restrained take with his character, while Paul Angelis is a little more dialed up and his presence adds an almost unsettling energy at times. The cast also includes Jenny Runacre, Murray Salem, and Patti Boulaye.
The Disc: Twilight Time released Hussy on Blu-ray in a rock solid treatment, so the movie looks quite good here. The print looks clean, with the natural grain present, while detail levels are good, though not always great. I suspect this is more to due with the source elements however, as the rest of the transfer is so good, I doubt softness is due to that process. The colors seem warm, but within a natural spectrum, while contrast is consistent and solid. The lone extra is the film’s theatrical trailer.
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