Throwback Thirty – Feds (1988)

Feds5_star_rating_system_1_and_a_half_stars This is last TBT post of November. A fact that can only mean one thing: we’re only 4 posts away from the end of this whole series. In just four weeks time I never have to watch a film from 1988 ever again if I don’t want to. Somehow I’ve managed to avoid watching any of the “decent” films that I had intended to watch. I kind of feel like I need to at least watch Cinema Paradiso as it was the Oscar winner from that year. But, then again, when there are still so many shitty films out there it’s impossible to imagine sitting down to watch something good. I know that I’m watching both Scrooged and Die Hard in December so it just begs the question, what are the other two going to be? But, let’s not think about that now. Not when we have a film all about female empowerment. It’s all feeling very progressive but is it as predictable as I think it’s going to be?

After hearing the plot summary of Feds, I’m pretty sure that everyone would be able to guess exactly how the film would play out. Rebecca De Mornay and Mary Gross play two women training to become FBI agents. De Mornay plays Ellie DeWitt, a former U.S. Marine who excels at the physical aspects of the job but struggles with the academic side. Gross is her roommate Janis Zuckerman, a super smart woman who is physically very weak. When the men in their class dismiss the pair for being women, the two team up to help each other succeed. With Ellie’s help Janis finds her inner strength and gets the confidence she needs to do the job. In return, Janis and her study group help Ellie get to grips with studying the law side of things. But will it be enough to help them graduate and pass their final practical exam?

It’s not that Feds is a bad film and it’s not that De Mornay and Gross are bad in their roles. The problem is that it just feels so tired. From the moment the two actors are in the same room as each other it’s obvious what’s going to happen so having to sit there as it gets dragged out is awful. This whole film is a cliche. Take a moment and think of any workplace comedy where a woman has to overcome a group of men who don’t think she has it in her. Got it? Now put that woman in an FBI training school and you’ve pretty much got Feds.

It’s the kind of film that lacks a little bit of everything. It’s not go as much comedy as it needs, it’s not got the drama, and it’s not got the emotional pull to make you really care about either of the women. It’s very slapstick and simplistic. There is no character development beyond “one of them is smart and one of them is tough”. The nearest we get to fun and multi-layered is a scene in which Janis gets drunk and tries to take home a sailor. De Mornay and Gross do the most they can with the underwhelming material they are given and Gross in particular has some good comic timing.

But they still flounder with a lack of material. The script tries to build laughs out a reliance on slapstick and silliness instead of clever and thought out jokes. It’s a film that is full of awful stereotypes and clichés. Feds is one of those films that likes to think it’s making a big statement but there’s so little going on. It’s not that it is a terrible film but there is so little to excite here. It’s not memorable nor does it really inspire multiple viewings.

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