This shoestring-budget, independent feature takes a quirky, low-key look at a cross-cultural, Generation-X menage a trois.
Amalia (Natalie Carp) is an eccentric young wanderer with a confused sense of the world and self, mixing Catholicism with kleptomania, free spiritedness with anarchy. She meets slacker graduate student Myers, who is attracted to her, but perplexed by her penchant for pilfering Virgin Mary
statues. At the same time, Myers--who's working as a college teaching assistant--develops a crush on Arcadio (Carmen Nogales), an attractive student. When he makes a date to pick up Arcadio, he discovers that she and Amalia are roommates. Myers can't decide who he prefers, and the girls engage in
a non-competitive dual flirtation with him.
The trio spend time together, party hopping, eating out, cruising, and following Amalia's shameless lead into larcenous mischief. While crashing a fraternity party she even leads them into robbing the hosts. As frat boys hunt Myers for revenge, the relationships disintegrate. After taking Myers
home to meet her family, Arcadio dumps him. Out of frustration with his failed romances, and to head off the vengeful frat pack, Myers smashes the windows out of his truck. An unreformed Amalia pawns her latest stolen statue for gas money and takes to the road.
Following in the footsteps of Richard Linklater's SLACKER and Robert Rodriguez' EL MARIACHI, Robert Byington's SHAMELESS is another low-budget, independent film debut out of Austin, Texas. Like Linklater's work, Byington's features directionless young people who drift around the edges of their
society. Myers and Arcadio are nominally students, but are never engaged in campus life. Amalia, although she has an engaging trickster personality, is even more of a drifter, travelling aimlessly. If she has an avocation, it's that of petty thief, but even her crimes are unmotivated, apparently
random acts. Thematically, one might venture that a profile of such wanderers would be about their quest for spirituality or a search for meaningful nonconformity in a straight world. But the film fails to find a unifying theme, and one obvious potential focus, the girls' conflicted feelings about
their Latina identity, is not developed.
One might argue that such disconnected characters and plotless narratives are part of a new slacker aesthetic, appropriate to the dazed and confused value system of the '90s generation. From this perspective, SHAMELESS offers image and performance rather than story or theme. On these counts, it
has merit; despite its low budget, the film includes fine, soft black-and-white cinematography and a variety of eccentric Austin locations. The female leads are engaging and attractive, an important plus, since Natalie Carp narrates the film and carries much of it forward with her shameless
antics. But perhaps the film's biggest dramatic deficit is Scott Rhodes. As editor of the film, and as a veteran of the production of SLACKER, his contributions are welcome. But as an actor his depressive quality prevents any chemistry from developing among the ensemble.
As alternatives to Hollywood formula and mass-marketed genre pictures, independent and idiosyncratic films such as SHAMELESS are a relief to cinephiles. But this film is hardly a hidden treasure. The film's impulse to challenge is convention is evident, but it ultimately lacks the extra kick one
hopes to find in movies that swim against the commercial mainstream. (Profanity, adult situations.)
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 1993
- Rating: NR
- Review: This shoestring-budget, independent feature takes a quirky, low-key look at a cross-cultural, Generation-X menage a trois. Amalia (Natalie Carp) is an eccentric young wanderer with a confused sense of the world and self, mixing Catholicism with kleptoma… (more)