S.F.W.

1995, R, 92 min. Directed by Jefery Levy. Starring Stephen Dorff, Reese Witherspoon, Jake Busey, Joey Lauren Adams, John Roarke.

REVIEWED By Alison Macor, Fri., Jan. 20, 1995

Never have I heard the word “fuck” used so frequently and with so little panache as in Jefery Levy's (Inside Monkey Zetterland, Drive) angst-filled social commentary S.F.W. (hip shorthand for the generational battle cry “So fucking what”). Based on novelist Andrew Wellman's book by the same name, S.F.W. is the story of Cliff Spab (Dorff) and his blast into famedom after rescuing himself and fellow hostage Wendy Pfister (Witherspoon) from a 36-day siege in a convenience store at the hands of terrorist group Split Image. Levy's film attempts to take a hard look at the media and how its news-collecting practices have reached ethical lows. S.F.W. contains some interesting touches, such as using the same actor (Roarke) to portray the interchangeability of talk/news show hosts Larry King, Phil Donahue, and Sam Donaldson. The soundtrack makes good use of bands like Soundgarden and Babes in Toyland to add angst-ambience and underscore the message that media products such as MTV are (for better or for worse) shaping our culture. Dorff turns in an appropriately dazed performance as Spab, the hero first puzzled and then cynical about his own catapult into celebrity. Witherspoon is fine as Spab's love interest and fellow hostage Wendy, but the film definitely privileges Spab's experience with the media machine. Perhaps S.F.W. comes at the wrong time, though -- too close on the heels of movies such as Natural Born Killers and Pulp Fiction which explore the media and/or over-the-top violence in a manner that makes greater use of smart dialogue and stylistic flourishes to add a more effective note of irony and sly humor. There's something about the media frenzy and the lead characters' reaction to it in S.F.W. that is a bit too noncommittal; when we leave Spab and Wendy at the end of the film, our investment in their lives really hasn't grown since we first met them. Somehow, I think Levy does want the audience on the side of his characters. Additionally, any pretense at intelligence is shot because of the characters' overindulgence in expletives. At times, it's like watching a live-action episode of Beavis and Butt-head. The last 15 minutes of S.F.W. do offer a surprising twist, but I still say S.T.M. -- see the matinee.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Stephen Dorff Films
Bucky Larson: Born To Be a Star
In this comedy, a Midwestern kid decides to follow in his parents' footsteps and become a porn star.

Kimberley Jones, Sept. 16, 2011

Somewhere
Filmmaker Sofia Coppola makes a dreamy, beautifully shot statement about the slow-burning dread of a truly hollow man, but Somewhere lacks the dry humor of Lost in Translation.

Marc Savlov, Jan. 21, 2011

More by Alison Macor
'The Last Supper'
'The Last Supper'
'Chainsaws, Slackers, and Spy Kids: 30 Years of Filmmaking in Austin, Texas': an excerpt

Feb. 26, 2010

The First Wives Club

Sept. 20, 1996

KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

S.F.W., Jefery Levy, Stephen Dorff, Reese Witherspoon, Jake Busey, Joey Lauren Adams, John Roarke

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle