by Del Harvey
Two misfit Goths, dressed head-to-toe in black velvet. A Stevie Nicks wannabe competition. A gay coming out. A straight coming out. A period piece coming of age story. Gypsy 83 is all of those.
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They’re just two young people growing up in Sandusky, Ohio. She’s Gypsy (Sara Rue) is 25. She’s got a stunning face but can’t help being overweight. Just like her favorite music idol, Stevie Nicks, she wraps herself in shawls and wears velvet boots and her clothes have lots of sequins. So it’s 1983 and she’s not all that different from most girls her age. Except this one really does have a good voice and a song to sing. Her best friend is Clive. He’s 18, and is a pretty and skinny boy who wears all the Goth make-up and black fingernail polish and dresses foppish Goth. He’s a happy kid who adores his best friend and wants to see her dreams come true. Well, that and he wants to find a handsome guy who will love him for who he is. Just a couple of normal kids in Middle America, circa 1983.
Small town Sandusky is wearing on them. There’s a huge contest held every year in New York. It’s called “Night of 1000 Stevies,” and Clive firmly believes Gypsy has one hell of a good chance of winning. So he convinces her to pack up her TransAm and take him along as they drive East toward semi-fame. Playing Gypsy’s dad, John Doe (LA’s punk bank X) plays Gypsy’s dad, who owns a music shop and is extremely supportive of his little girl.
Along the way they bump into cult goddess Karen Black as lounge chanteuse Bambi LaBeau, performing nightly at the High-Ball Cocktail Lounge, which is just another pitstop on the road to The Big Apple for our two weary travelers. Only Ms. LaBeau is even more weary in her life than our journeyers, and she convinces the two kids to come to her house after a show, where the sadness of a misspent life manifest one of Gypsy’s worst fears where her dreams are concerned. Clive gets her out of there before it’s too late and they hustle off down the road, doing their best to rediscover their confidence in themselves and their dreams.
The nice thing about Gypsy 83 is that it feels just like an ‘80’s coming-of-age comedy. It’s got the right nuances, the right look, the right sounds. But in the later middle both Gypsy and Clive come face-to-face with their own sexuality, and for me it is this little twist which elevates Gypsy’s rough-edged feel to something more than just another ode to self-discovery. There are two mild nude scenes in the film, and anyone with any sexual phobias probably will be turned off by these. There are some mild political statements at work here which touch on some tender topics for that struggling individual within all of us. And this element is handled with dignity and respect.
Gypsy 83 is an enjoyable little drama and a nice little slice of what it was like to grow up in the 80’s. I think history has proved it wasn’t such a bad time, after all.
To learn more about the film, click here.
Del Harvey is the founder of Film Monthly, and teaches screenwriting at Columbia College Chicago.
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