"A Schizophrenic Glimpse into a Sordid World"
What You Need To Know:
Directed by actor Nicolas Cage, SONNY is the story of a young man trapped by the life of prostitution his mother has created for him. After leaving the Army in 1981, Sonny tries to get a job in the real world, but his plans fail drastically and his old life as a gigolo working for his mother calls him home. No matter how hard he tries, he can’t seem to escape the degradation that engulfs him. Sonny’s only chance to get out may lie in the love he starts to feel for his mother’s new prostitute, Carol, who also wants to leave.
SONNY is a schizophrenic, abhorrent glimpse into a sordid world. It clearly shows that the mother’s life of prostitution and her boy friend’s life of thievery are not good. The movie also intends for viewers to sympathize with Sonny and Carol’s desires to have a normal life and includes a redemptive metaphor to Jesus Christ. Regrettably, however, the movie also seems to take delight in showing how sordid the world is and how lost people can become. Lots more discretion and a strong Christian worldview might have made a much better movie
(PaPaPa, B, C, Ho, LLL, VV, SSS, NNN, AA, DD, MM) Pagan worldview about the world of prostitution with very strong pagan content with some undeveloped moral and redemptive qualities and themes; homosexual references; about 60 obscenities, four strong profanities and nine light profanities; young man tackles young woman in the mud, man brutally beats another man in a sadomasochistic scene, some clothes ripped off, man smashes bottles of codeine while roughing up female drug addict and screaming obscenely at her and other people, and brutal car crash; lots of sexual immorality, including depicted fornication, depicted adultery, depicted prostitution, sadomasochism, some homosexual references, and strong sexual language; upper and rear male and female nudity in several scenes; alcohol use and drunkenness; smoking, cocaine sniffing in one scene and woman abuses codeine; and, references to mother prostituting her son since he was 12, gambling, stealing, and violent threats.
SONNY is acting superstar Nicolas Cage’s first attempt to direct a feature-length movie. Cage has assembled an array of veterans and newcomers to tell the story of a young man trapped by the life of prostitution that his mother has created for him.
James Franco, who played Peter Parker’s friend in SPIDER-MAN and James Dean on TV recently, stars in the title role. Sonny has just gotten out of the Army in 1981 and he stops by New Orleans to visit his mother, Jewel. Jewel (played by Oscar-nominated Brenda Blethyn) and her long-time companion, Henry (played by Harry Dean Stanton of COOL HAND LUKE and ALIEN), are glad to have Sonny back.
Jewel is pimping a new prostitute, Carol (played by Mena Suvari of AMERICAN BEAUTY). She’s looking forward to having her son add his sexual skills to her meager finances. Sonny, however, has decided to go “straight.” He’s lined up a job with an Army buddy in Texas. His plans don’t end well, however, and his old life as a gigolo working for his mother calls him home. No matter how hard he tries, he can’t seem to escape the degradation that engulfs him.
SONNY is a schizophrenic glimpse into a sordid world. Nicolas Cage does a good job of getting the audience to sympathize with Sonny’s awful plight. He loads his movie, however, with graphic scenes of Sonny and Carol’s sexual exploits as a prostitute and a gigolo. The script he’s using even has some sleazy jokes to spice up this degrading material. Thus, even though there are scenes showing how degrading prostitution is, as well as scenes showing the sinfulness of man and a scene with a redemptive reference to Jesus Christ and the Last Supper, the movie also takes delight in seeing what it can get away with showing, which is a lot.
It may be possible to tell such a sordid tale as this tastefully, but only if the filmmakers could do so with much more discretion, not to mention a much stronger sense of moral judgment and/or a more strongly developed Christian worldview. Regrettably, most filmmakers today don’t have that kind of guts. They’d rather give subtle hints of moral judgment and redemptive possibilities rather than tackle the issue of sin in a forthright, Christian manner. After all, they don’t want their sinful peers in the industry to ridicule them for their Christian beliefs.
SONNY is shot on a small budget. The acting ranges from okay to excellent. Harry Dean Stanton does a particularly superb job as the fallen, ineffectual father figure who truly wishes the best for the people around him, but is unable to provide it himself. In that respect, SONNY does a good job of showing how lost people can get and too often have become. A better script would have milked that theme in a much more positive, more biblical and more artful way.