Making Waves (1994)


USA. 1994.


Director/Screenplay – George Saunders, Producer – Ross Hammer, Photography – Mark Ludwig, Music – Alexandra Caselli, Production Design – Stephanie Marra. Production Company – RMG Productions


George Saunders (Jim), Nicola Kelly (Maya), Mickey Rooney (Gideon), Betsy Monroe (Trish), April Breneman (Victoria), Jake Adams (Jake), Eden Young (Terry)


Up in Heaven, the angelic supervisor Gideon sends the apprentice angel Maya down to Earth to earn her wings by sorting out the lives of a group of friends. When Jim learns that his good friend Bill has gone mad and now believes in an invisible talking bear called Oswald, he agrees to bring their group of friends back together for the first time in twelve years for a yacht trip. Reuniting aboard the yacht are Jim who is constantly trying to hide from his girlfriend Trish’s perpetual demands for sex; Bill and his friend Terry; Jim’s former girlfriend Victoria who abandoned him at the altar; and Jake who spends all his time drinking. They are joined by Maya after they fish her out of the ocean naked. On Penguin Island, the group’s frustrations come to a fore as Maya shows what is in each person’s hearts and that they are all in their own way seeking to avoid the one they love. However, Jim frustrates the angelic plan to bring everybody together with the right person by instead falling in love with Maya.

Making Waves is a mind-bogglingly bizarre film. When I first tuned in halfway through the film on tv in the early hours of the am, I sat there dumbfounded wondering what on Earth it was that I was watching. It took some time before Making Waves turned up on schedules again but the result is something that deserves a prize place in psychotronic cinema, if not Golden Turkey status.

Making Waves is directed, written by and stars George Saunders. George Saunders has a minor career as an actor in various made-for-video erotic films. Sample titles – Femme Fontaine: Killer Babe for the CIA (1994), Real Couples: Sex in Dangerous Places (1994), Erotic Boundaries (1997), Stolen Sex Tapes (2002) and Visions of Passion (2003). Saunders has also written a surprising number of action films – Blood Games (1990), Navy SEALs (1991), Vendetta (1996), Bloodsport: The Dark Kumite (1998) – and the scripts for various video-released psycho-thrillers for producer Pierre David – The Landlady (1997), The Night Caller (1998), The Perfect Wife (2001), The Perfect Husband (2003), Stranger at the Door (2004) and Maid of Honor (2006), as well as the interestingly titled Mutant Vampire Zombies from the ‘Hood (2007). Making Waves was George Saunders’ second film as director.

Making Waves is really an erotic version of The Big Chill (1983), which was about a group of friends reuniting after many years and working out their unresolved issues. Although this is a version of The Big Chill that also comes with angels, talking seagulls and even the odd suggestion of Harvey (1950) – the classic comedy where James Stewart believes in an invisible white rabbit – added to the mix. In actuality, Making Waves is more of an erotic film with pretensions towards being a meaningful relationship drama. While also writing and directing the film, the blandly handsomely George Saunders casts himself in the lead role where he keeps writing himself one-liners that feel like they are straining to make pithy profundities. The film ends on a series of banal homilies where it is seen that everybody is avoiding love and that life will all turn out rosy and happy if only each of them can recognise this: “I guess I use sex the way you use beer – to avoid love,” Betsy Monroe’s character realises at one point.

The worst part about the human drama is the performance of the actor playing the role of Bill. Appropriately, the person playing the part has clearly seen what a turkey Making Waves was and chose to accept no credit on the finished film. Whoever the actor is gives a terrible performance, running around ranting about an invisible bear named Oswald. Here George Saunders lacks the slightest idea how to write a credible portrait of mental illness – there is not a shred of conviction to the character. On the plus side, Nicola Kelly in the role of Maya the angel and April Breneman as George Saunders’ ex Victoria both give credible performances amid the silliness. Mickey Rooney is the only recognisable name present and gives an awful performance as the heavenly supervisor – Rooney must have needed the money in a bad way.

What might have passed as an erotic film at a stretch sinks the moment that we get to the talking seagulls. Yes, talking seagulls. And one’s that are outfitted with smartass lines about hot babes, wanting to find Sealmaster exercise machines and in voices mimicking Peter Lorre, Jack Nicholson and Sean Connery. After the angel falls into the sea, the observing seagulls comment: “Roger, Houston, we have a splashdown.” The seagulls look in on human sex scenes: “What’s this obsession you have with human copulation?” “Hey, sue me, I’m a weird bird.” Although the most mind-boggling piece of seagull dialogue is the following exchange: “Humans don’t know how to be romantic,” “You say something romantic,” “Let me shove my beak down your throat and upchuck my dinner in your gizzard.”

(Winner in this site’s Worst Films of 1994 list).

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