The Slow and the Spacey

Anna Thomson leads a quirky cast through the misnamed Fast Food, Fast Women.

You know how wacky those free spirits are, right? Impulsive women likely to throw their clothes off and worship the sky at a moment's notice, say what they feel, talk to animals, and generally act like unfettered id to some poor repressed chap who desperately needs unbuttoning. If you believe the movies, women matching this description are everywhere. The thing is, the crazy antics are often merely a means to an end -- to obtain the uptight fellow after he's been suitably rattled loose. In Fast Food, Fast Women, we get a look at the free-spirited female archetype as she lives her everyday life. No car chases or uncaged zoo animals here, and while there is romance, it's no lesser or greater an element than it would be in anyone else's life.

Anna Thomson, who is best known for smaller roles in such films as The Crow and Unforgiven, takes the lead here and is almost unrecognizable as Bella, the sort of wild child who is prone to getting spontaneously naked or lying down in the middle of a busy New York street. Like Andy Kaufman, she waits tables, even though she doesn't need to; we find out that she made good money briefly as a stockbroker, before quitting to go lowbrow and be among "real" people at a diner.

Eventually, one of the "real people," Paul (Robert Modica), decides to scour the personals and encounters a seemingly perfect match in widow Emily (Louise Lasser). Their burgeoning romance is one of the film's two major storylines, which occasionally cross over in unusual fashion.

The other follows Bella and her courtship dance with a guy she's been set up with by her overpowering mother. It's a situation neither party is comfortable with; the man is a womanizing British cab driver named Bruno (Jamie Harris), who has recently had two young children dumped on his doorstep. Bella takes the advice of a friend who tells her that, since the world is so fast-moving, she should sleep with Bruno on the first date. But not before a goofy misunderstanding occurs: Not knowing Bruno has kids, Bella opines that she hates children, thinking that to do otherwise will scare any man away. Being male, he is naturally not scared away from the sex, but forever afterward he can never invite Bella home, lest she catch a glimpse of the young 'uns.

Fast Food, Fast Women is one of those genially paced, character-driven indies, and it succeeds as such very well. However, the title could be considered deceptive. Bella may be what one might consider a "fast" woman, but none of the other females are. There aren't any hamburgers or fries in sight either.

The film's greatest strength is that it doesn't quite hew to the romantic notion that two people will come together and completely subsume one another's identities. The dating-and-mating process is depicted as notoriously difficult, and both men and women are capable of playing the field, even while pursuing a particular individual. Not that that's necessarily good, but it is real, and writer-director Amos Kollek (Sue) doesn't judge them for it.