Mini’s First Time
Written and directed by Nick Guthe. With Alec Baldwin, Nikki Reed,
Carrie-Anne Moss, Luke Wilson and Jeff Goldblum. 91 minutes.
The set-up is so common that it’s fallen to cliché: illicit lovers locked in lustful ecstasy, and the realization that they’ve got to dispose of either one’s spouse for euphoric, uninterrupted bliss…especially if there’s a hefty amount of insurance money attached to the corpse. The scenario was made famous in Double Indemnity
and other 1940s film noir, but it’s durable and lurid and alluring, with Mini’s First Time
evidence that much of the tawdry charm still works.
Not that the character of Mini is overly motivated by financial windfalls or murder. As played by the centerfold-ready Nikki Reed, she’s the spoiled spawn of a failed Hollywood marriage, living under the tony roof of an alcoholic mom (Carrie-Anne Moss) and a detached corporate honcho stepfather (Alec Baldwin). Writer-director Nick Guthe infuses these love-deprived characters with an awareness of the conscience and compassion that wafts between the lines in and around Beverly Hills, where materialism and gluttony and a pricey coiffure determine your worth.
The ‘first time’ of the title refers to high school senior Mini’s need to spice her vacuous existence with impulsive ‘firsts.’ Among them is a one-night gig working for an escort service. Sending her out to a hotel room, and quite by coincidence, stepdad Alec’s the unsuspecting client—two firsts in one night. The situation is cannily arranged, to where the Baldwin character is unaware that he’s screwing his own stepdaughter. After meeting far from cute, their tryst leads to a full fledged affair, under the gullible, coke-filled nose of Carrie-Anne. A plan to Gaslight
her into the local sanitarium offers the barbed comedy relief of a Felliniesque mental and emotional collapse.
Daddy’s little girl: Alec makes sure Nikki’s hot bod doesn’t burn
Between the dynamics of the plot, the sporadic shifts into black comedy and satire, and the shadings of its sundry characters, Nick Guthe handles the material with skill and assurance, no small feat considering Mini’s First Time
is his directorial debut. (His previous credits include scripts for Roger Corman’s TV series, Black Scorpion
, and for the film Lola’s Game
.) Filmed during a pronounced climate of political conservatism, idealized ethics and homogenized family values, Guthe approaches the nagging concerns of a bored elite imploding from their costly and presumably ‘sinful’ urges.
Indeed, the whole thing could have easily strayed into the modish, over-the-top titillation and outrageousness of television’s Desperate Housewives
, where horny stepfathers banging their supermodel stepdaughters would be de rigueur. This is not to say that Mini’s First Time
trades lurid for lucid, but its moments of absurdity—the fleeting nods to erotic massage, the circus, and naked teenage girls popping out of birthday cakes—point to the narcissism and perpetual dissatisfaction that comes from excess. There are also the obligatory parallels to Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita
to consider, notably the alternative morality that propels the man and the girl, as well as Moss’s woozy, self centered mother, and a Quilty-like background character handled with appropriate sleaziness by Jeff Goldblum.
Mostly the film is a showcase for Nikki Reed. Best remembered as the bad girl in Catherine Hardwick’s Thirteen
(2003), which had been based on a script Reed co-wrote when she was fourteen-years-old
, she handles the character of Mini deftly, working the Cover Girl aplomb that can shrug off encroaching humility with the snap of a well-manicured finger. There is a hardness about the actress which likely stems from a turbulent past (Thirteen
was largely autobiographical), and may also provide one reason why she hasn’t excelled in the kind of fluff that Hillary Duff and Lindsay Lohan have built their fortunes on. But Mini’s First Time
shows an advance from her excellent performance in Thirteen
, this time as a pampered high school senior loath to confront her own neediness and vulnerability.
Copyright © 2006 by Ray Young