Dub Cee Reviews: S.F.W. (1994)
Director: Jefery Levy
Writer(s): Andrew Wellman (novel), Danny Rubin and Jefery Levy (Screenplay)
Stars: Stephen Dorff, Reese Witherspoon
I could recall this movie from many, many moons ago when I caught it on HBO as a kid. I could recall a couple of scenes and the general story but I could not remember many details. However, it must have left something of an impression on my young mind thus why I decided to check this movie out again. Gotta say, I am glad I did.
S.F.W. is really about two central characters. Cliff Spab (Stephen Dorff) and Wendy Pfister (Reese Witherspoon). That said, make no mistake, Dorff is this film’s star. Both in screen time and performance. The gist of the story is that Cliff, Wendy, Cliff’s friend Joe, and two other people are taken hostage by a group called Split Image. The news networks are forced to broadcast the tapes sent to them or else the hostages are killed. This creates the most warped reality TV show in history and the hostages are the stars.
The relationship between the stoner Spab and the Belle of the Ball Wendy is the main focus of the masses. The movie actually centers around Cliff’s live after surviving the ordeal and realizing that his attitude has created a cult like following for him. The media attention and the treatment from his money grubbing father causes Cliff to go into hiding while Wendy is making the talk show rounds. Eventually, the media reports that Cliff’s body has been found, which Cliff finds hilarious and comes out of hiding. The whole love story between Wendy and Cliff could have easily ended up in Romeo and Juliet territory, for one scene I thought it would but thankfully it did not. Anyway, Cliff finds that the only person in his life who understands and gets what is happening is this girl who he otherwise has very little in common with. Even his best friend, Morrow (Jake Busey) tries to cash in on him.
My only real big bitch with this movie is that a character will be introduced and seem to be an important factor and then vanish. Although granted that means only two scenes with Joey Lauren Adams aka the Chick from Mallrats with a voice more grating than Fran Drescher’s.
The movie is a not so subtle stab at America’s obsession with celebrity. At the end of the movie, Cliff and Wendy are totally overshadowed by a women with an opposite message to Cliff’s S.F.W. and yet the very same people are praising her. The movie was released in 1994. To put it into perspective, MTV’s “The Real World” debuted in 1992. Survivor in 2000. And Big Brother in 1997 in England. In other words, the whole reality TV concept was still very much a new idea. So credit to the movie for being a little ahead of its time there. And given the way American’s reacted to Richard Hatch, maybe the movie’s cynical opinion of it all is accurate. Also, the news Media takes pretty good bashing with the not to obvious look-a-likes for Sam Donaldson, Larry King, Phil Donahue, etc.
The acting is solid all around but really, only Dorff is a major character in the movie. Witherspoon’s scenes are few and her lines are usually spoken one or two at a time. Dorff channels his inner “Loose Cannon” Brian Pillman. Or, for those non-wrestling geeks out there, Kurt Cobain. Dorff is excellent. Trust me, you will not hear me say that too often. Even still though, I could not help but think the writer’s had Ethan Hawke in mind when they wrote this. The movie was released the same year as Reality Bites and if you compare Dorff’s Spab to Hawke’s Troy Dyer, you will find loads of similarities.
Grade: I am really glad my childhood memories were strong enough to remember this movie. I enjoyed it a lot despite a couple annoying flaws. — B.
Oh, and what exactly does S.F.W. stand for? Mr. Dorff, if you please…