Satisfaction

February 18, 2011

I think most of us agree that the Rolling Stones’ classic “Satisfaction” has been waiting for the definitive interpreter, the inspired reader, the all-new rendition. Who else to give this new reading of the song but …Justine Bateman, of course.

Just kidding. Mick Jagger’s immortal intonation is quite safe from this feeble imitation. But as another song puts it, the girl can’t help it. Bateman, the star of “Family Ties,” wanted to make a movie, and this one happens to be about a girl group, so she sings, all right? The fact that she really has no singing voice did not stop this trouper, just as it has not stopped many actors in the past.

The plot of Satisfaction hangs on the threadiest of threads. It’s a summer movie about a gang of girls, just graduating from high school, who take a summer gig at a beachside bar before they must scatter for college.

Believe it or not, in the course of the summer they all learn a lot about love and life. (Though they never learn why a bunch of 17-year-olds can perform in a bar.) Bateman falls in heavy like with the bar’s owner, a former rock star (Liam Neeson, who had the title role in Suspect).

He’s now burned out, but obviously available for rekindling, and you can bet that before the film is over he’ll write a song under the fresh inspiration of his new muse. The song selection overall is a bit unlikely; the girls seem to know everything from “Iko Iko” to Elvis Costello’s “Mystery Dance.”

Screenwriter Charles Purpura and director Joan Freeman work mainly in shorthand, which may be the best way. Justine Bateman is pretty and toothy and can’t be faulted for this thing, particularly since it takes a certain grand kind of guts to perform a cappella with a voice like hers. And it could have been worse: At least they didn’t ask her to sing “You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman” or “Dock of the Bay.”

First published in the Herald, February 19, 1988

At the time, honestly, it seemed as though Justine Bateman could possibly turn into some sort of movie star—and if not her, then bandmate Trini Alvarado, also an appealing performer, had a shot to break out. And oh yes, there was Julia Roberts in there too. She and Neeson came out of this pretty well.


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