By the rules of The Hunt, Havoc is disqualified from serious consideration. Although it stars Anne Hathaway and Bijou Phillips, and also Rico from Six Feet Under, it never saw a theatrical release. It was screened at some film festivals, and was picked up for DVD distribution, and it is bad, but this is not one of those situations where rules are made to be broken. The reasoning behind the theatrical release requirement for Hunt nominees is that in order for something to truly be terrible, it has to have the capacity to affect the culture. It’s expressly the mistaken idea that a bad movie is worthy of your 11 dollars, that it can compete in the marketplace, that it deserves an audience, that takes it from your standard bargain bin cult movie disasterpiece to genuine The Worst territory. What I’m trying to say is who cares how bad a movie is if no one sees it? Trees shitting in the woods and stuff. That being said, Havoc seems to have slipped through the cracks. It was written by Academy Award-winner Stephen Gaghan. The director, Barbara Kopple, has two Oscars. And Anne Hathaway shows her tits in the movie. THREE TIMES. So, although we’re all on the same page–my page–that this movie is by our own definition–my definition–out of the running for the Grand Prize, let’s talk about it, because yikes.
Havoc is about rich white kids from the Palisades who love hip hop so much that they talk like Poser Mobile and get together in parking lots on the beach to pick fights with poor Hispanic kids, because thug life. One night Anne Hathaway and her boyfriend and also Bijou Phillips drive to East LA to buy drugs from some real life gang members, and Anne Hathaway’s boyfriend pees his pants, literally, and then Anne Hathaway falls in love with Rico from Six Feet Under because he has a ponytail. So then she starts hanging out with real life gang members, because that happens, and one night her and Bijou Phillips decide that they want to become part of the gang. The way to become part of the gang is you have to roll a die and whatever number you roll is the number of guys you have to have sex with, and Bijou Phillips rolls whatever number you have to roll to get gang raped. Then Anne Hathaway decides that she doesn’t want to be in the gang anymore and she goes back to being a rich white kid from the Palisades. Bijou Phillips has a little bit of a rougher time of it, because of the whole getting gang raped thing.
The movie makes sure that you understand how complex the characters are by including the conceit of a high school kid shooting a documentary about Anne Hathaway, because that way she can just actually spell it all out for you: r-i-c-h-k-i-d-s- a-r-e-l-o-n-e-l-y-a-n-d-l-o-v-e-i-m-p-r-o-v:
Aw, maybe if her parents loved her they would pay for acting classes. Look, Anne Hathaway has really carved out a niche for herself with movies like The Princess Diaries and The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement, but listening to her speak “gangsta” for an hour and a half is The Unbearable Diaries. More than that, it’s embarrassing. It’s so bad that you stop feeling bad for Anne Hathaway, and move on to feeling bad for the loved ones of Anne Hathaway, who had to try and think of something nice to say to her.
Havoc obviously wishes it was Kids, but the problem with wishing that you were Kids is that Kids isn’t really that good of a movie in the first place, so what does that say about a subpar Kids? Both are filled with After-School Special caliber messages about parental neglect, although what sets Havoc apart is the fact that the parents don’t actually seem neglectful. They’re smart and tan and rich, and while they’re two-dimensionally unhappy, because every middle-aged wealthy parent in a movie about Los Angeles is “unhappy,” they actually seem to care about their kids and want to do right by them. This could be an interesting commentary on how kids grow up so fast these days that it doesn’t matter how good of a parent you are, they’ll still be left to navigate very adult dangers all on their own, but it’s not an interesting commentary on that. It just seems poorly thought out. And boring. Are we really supposed to believe that anyone actually keeps a list like this on their refrigerator?
But despite the heavy-handedness of the movie’s morality, and Anne Hathaway’s dialog, and the deeply flawed attempts at showing what life was really like on the mean streets of East LA, things don’t get really bad (and really weird) until after Bijou Phillips gets gang-raped. Because Anne Hathaway, the film’s protagonist, the film’s “heroine,” claims that Bijou Phillips wasn’t gang-raped because she asked to be in the gang, and those are the rules. It’s like the old saying goes: “if someone rolls dice, it’s never gang rape.” (What?) At first it’s like, huh, OK, that’s kind of weird, because your friend did just get gang-raped, so you’re kind of being a dick about this, but then the movie just keeps pushing on this point, and Anne Hathaway never backs down from her position, going so far as to tell Bijou Phillips’s parents that the reason she won’t help Bijou by testifying to the police is because Bijou Phillips basically asked to get triple-penetration gang-raped by rolling dice so its her fault. Her fault! But to make things more complicated, when Anne Hathaway tells Bijou Phillips’s parents that it was her idea to get gang-raped in the first place so that makes it not a gang-rape, Bijou Phillips gets really upset, as if her plot has been foiled? And Anne Hathaway is like “I’m sorry about letting everyone know you love being gang raped, but we should always be honest,” and Bijou Phillips is like “I want to kill myself because of how right you are about it being my idea to get gang-raped,” and suddenly it’s all just like UM, WHAT?
Speaking of what, what is it with Stephen Gaghan movies and the depiction of upper-middle class white teenagers’ casual experimentation with crack?
To be fair, though, the movie is doomed from the beginning, because the first line of the whole thing is Anne Hathaway saying “So you want to know about life in the Palisades?” And the answer to that is “no,” but they never give us time to answer.