Masochistic Masterpieces: Rhinestone

“You’d have thought we all got together and decided how we could fastest ruin our careers.” – Sylvester Stallone when asked about the film years later

Director: Bob Clark
Writer: Sylvester Stallone | Phil Alden Robinson
Starring: Dolly Parton & Sylvester Stallone
Year: 1984
Anon Rating: “I Fell In A Pile Of You And Got Love All Over Me”

 

Where to start on this glorious display of raw artistic brilliance. Sylvester Stallone took one of Phil Alden Robinson‘s (Field of Dreams/Sneakers) scripts and dry-humped it with boxing shorts on while watching Dallas reruns. Stallone butchered it to the point Robinson fought to have his name removed before being persuaded by the studio that the TWENTY-EIGHT MILLION DOLLAR BUDGET and the “caliber’ of cast guaranteed it would be foolish not to have his name attached to the final product. Nothing speaks more about this film than knowing The Razzies nominated Rhinestone eight times in seven categories.

The concept is simple; Dolly Parton is locked into a singing contract with a sexually-condescending sleazoid bar owner and may have finally figured a way out of it. The New York City country bar is known for ripping new singers apart attempting the stage which leaves Parton to carry the weight of being the only talent in the place. Our first taste of this comes by a garbage song from some dude with an acoustic guitar (Rusty Buchanan) and a scar on his face who manages to bring the crowd to the edge of fanaticism before hitting the bridge where the death of his girlfriend Loretta is revealed to have been on their wedding day under the wrong end of a tractor. Blood was everywhere. The screams curdling. I highly doubt the experience, had it been real, would have been any less horrifying than any individual performance in Rhinestone—musical or otherwise. Excluding Dolly of course, who is a goddamn queen always and forever, she could sing the ingredients from a toothpaste roll and it would still be the greatest song ever sung. Dolly being Dolly, Stallone at a point in his career where he could not fail, this is the real tragedy of Rhinestone; no one had the nerve to hit the brakes.

 

Parton through two minutes of constant disgusting—yet completely acceptable in the eighties—advances from the owner places a bet that in two weeks she can turn anyone into a country music star. If she wins she gets out of the dead-end contract he holds over her. If Parton loses she finally sleeps with the sleazy manager. A fairly respectable wager for 1984. Taxi driver Nick Martinelli (Stallone) wrecks his car while distracted by Parton’s sexual magnetism as she and the sleazeball stand outside the bar searching for her bet’s suitor. We have all seen fifty movies with the same premise; person is reluctant, through some sort of romantic chemistry undertone the anti-hero buys into the cause, stuff happens, walls are climbed, inner strength is found, demons are defeated, the past is stripped away, the future becomes the now, every last expectation destroyed as they rise to the occasion finding through each other the time tried truth remains; through love nothing is impossible.

The truth is if they stuck with the concept this could have been watchable. Parton is believable. We already know what to expect with Stallone. In theory, this experiment might have worked. This is where Sly’s reworking of the script takes the spotlight. Who in the hell reads lines like “I hear it’s harder to get a song past you than a donkey past the dawn” (whatever the hell that means) and feels warm about jumping on board with the project? Yet here awaits 111 minutes of raw, heavily cut, evidence. Stallone’s inability to remotely carry a tune is so far down the list of flaws if it were the only issue to be found one might argue it being overlooked. Rhinestone is irredeemable.

In a world of terrible movies no one should ever endure, Rhinestone manages to climb out of the trash can it deserve. One misstep at a time to rise into the coveted yet rarely accomplished mantle worthy placement of carnage worth enduring. Do not tread lightly though. Rhinestone demands full involvement so this is a required phone shut off viewing and more importantly, this journey should never be taken alone. Order a pizza. Corral your friends. You will need support.

Here’s a quick rundown of all the experiences which capture one’s heart the first time you press play:

– No two minutes pass without either some cast member blatantly staring at Parton’s cleavage or some mind-numbing sexual advance is made towards her.

Stallone’s character refers to himself in third person roughly a hundred and seventeen times.

– Lines such as “you’re one game rooster but country you ain’t,” “ain’t gotta go nowhere to learn nothin,” “as funny as a rubber crutch in a hospital ward” are delivered with such politician’s conviction you may even find some of them drifting over you unnoticed. I’d tell you to focus heavily on Tim Thomerson but he does a good enough job chewing the camera with false joviality that you could be half-asleep on pain killers and he would still find a way of drawing a Robert Downey Jr. eye-roll out of you.

 

 

Sly’s outfits from this movie; everything is skin tight and nonsensical…. you’ll just have to see for yourself, no words exist to do the clothing justice.

Dolly Parton takes Stallone down to her hometown in Tennessee for two weeks because “if you’re gonna sing country, you gotta walk it, talk it, breathe it, sleep it.” While there she teaches him all the essentials of being a Cowboy; always mix one’s peas in their mashed potatoes and to walk like a respectable cowboy one needs only pretend as if they have a “real bad case of jock itch.” No demographic should leave this film without being slightly offended.

– Being the eighties, we get one of those dreamlike whispy falling in love near a pond montages. It is Rhinestone though so, of course, they mess the pacing up.

-Dolly Parton landed two of her highest-grossing singles from the Rhinestone soundtrack. She had to make the rounds of talk-shows singing songs from this movie to promote it. I’d love to talk to Dolly about just how dark of a time it was for her during this phase of her life; Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Rhinestone is not. Then again she probably pocketed a million at least off the deal so she fell up with this one in the end.

If only once in your life you find yourself wishing for the presence of auto-tune it will be during this movie. Good god. The nerves and embarrassment are all over Stallone’s face. His lack of ability engulfs everyone involved and yet this trainwreck just stays right on track. His first two songs equate to about a minute and a half of screaming inaudibly like Scott Stapp singing Misfits covers while being eaten alive by fire ants. His take on Little Richard is borderline blasphemous. Kids take note. This is how the world was before computers made everything shiny.

Final Verdict: If you play music, pretend to love music, or have ever heard of music, you must see this movie. It is unreal. Not to mention it grossed nearly twenty-two million in the box office. Wrap your brain around that. I mean Gigli sucks and had a big budget but they barely let that one sit in theaters before pulling it. This was a major release that nearly turned a profit.

20th Century Fox has re-released this enough times that tracking down a copy takes only the motivation, any Goodwill or trash dump should have you covered as long as you have a VCR nearby.