The Life aka Yo Puta aka Whore (2004) Movie Review

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(Movie Review by Donnie Saxton) One of the most confusing things about “The Life,” a film fraught with confusion, is what to call it. Upon theatrical release it was called “Yo Puta,” presumably because the film is based on a novel of the same name. Between then and the recent DVD release, a decision was made to market it overseas under the title “Whore.” That name apparently found disfavor and thus when it reached my eyes, it had been renamed yet again, this time as “The Life”. Ultimately, it matters little what the movie is called as long as the DVD jacket comes with the appropriate warning label — “May cause drowsiness.”

“The Life,” directed by Maria Lidon, purports to take a realistic look at the “the life” of a prostitute by incorporating real life hookers into the movie. Whether this film was meant to be a form of documentary is unclear. What is clear is that the majority of screen time is a nondescript, hodgepodge group of sound bites collected from working prostitutes as well as others involved in various kinds of hedonism. These “interviews” are interlaced with a scripted drama featuring 80′s bombshell Daryl Hannah and fading ’90s bombshell Denise Richards (“Starship Troopers”).

Richards plays a doctoral anthropology student and Hannah is her actress neighbor who is also a call girl. Richard’s character is writing a book on prostitution, which leads her to conduct a variety of information gathering conversations with real life hookers. These sessions are presented in the film as part of her research, even though Richards never appears onscreen with any of the interviewees. The idea, presumably, is that the real life individuals and their experiences form the basis of the film’s subject matter, and the fictitious story, featuring the actors, controls the focus and pacing.

It’s an interesting idea, with the potential to be an equally interesting film. The reason why it fails in most respects is because, as a whole, “The Life” is completely out of touch with its purpose, whatever that may be. Far too many subjects and scenarios are thrown at the audience, producing nothing more than a garbled taxicab confessional for sexual deviants. As a result, we hear from almost everyone, from actual prostitutes (male and female), clients, porn stars, pimps, smut film directors, sadomasochists, and others.

The interview sessions are hopelessly confusing in their nature and scope because there is no focus to the material. Had any one of the aforementioned topics been genuinely explored with the non-actors, a potentially interesting documentary might have emerged. Instead, all involved and their stories are trivialized by a film that merely brushes up against the realties of the sex business. The entire film treats each subject like a grace note: important enough to play, but not to explore.

If “The Life” proves anything at all, it’s that prostitutes possess an ample supply of racy anecdotes which, in turn, provide the only genuinely interesting parts of the film. For instance, one of the male escorts discloses an interesting tidbit involving his police costume and his Billy club that you’ll have to see for yourself to believe. There are also some colorful moments from the clients that somehow fail to inspire — “Some people go to see sports, I go to see whores,” one of them confesses.

But the greatest disappointment by far is the superfluous storyline featuring Richards and Hannah. Its only real function is to interrupt the anticipation of the next dirty tall tale, and it bears little relationship to the real life individuals and what they are saying onscreen. The story is boring, the performances flat, and the entire exercise add nothing to the sum of the film, so what’s the point?

“The Life” had a budget of six million dollars, begging the question: why didn’t Lidon chuck the high profile actors and use the money to focus on something tangible instead? The inclusion of the inescapably lame storyline and other aimless gimmicks simply detract from an already poor effort that attempts to shed light on a very serious subject. As for Richards and Hannah, if there was any dispute about the floor of their respective careers, that debate is now over.

María Lidon (director) / Adela Ibanez, Isabel Pisano (screenplay)
CAST: Daryl Hannah …. Adriana
Denise Richards …. Rebecca
Joaquim de Almeida …. Pierre


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