ASKING FOR IT movie poster | ©2022 Saban

ASKING FOR IT movie poster | ©2022 Saban Films

Rating: R
Stars:
Kiersey Clemons, Vanessa Hudgens, Alexandra Shipp, Ezra Miller, Gabourey Sidibe, Radha Mitchell, Casey Cott, Leslie Stratton, Luke Hemsworth, Wayne Dehart, David Patrick Kelly, Demetrius Shipp Jr., Casey Camp-Horinek
Writer: Eamon O’Rourke
Director: Eamon O’Rourke
Distributor: Saban Films
Release Date: March 4, 2022

ASKING FOR IT has the vibe of a ‘70s indie film that is blissfully unafraid to blend genres and tones.

Directed and written by Eamon O’Rourke, ASKING FOR IT is in theory and practice a rape revenge action flick. However, it’s also a celebration of young female bonding, idyllic hip-hop counterculture, and a type of fantasy, even without supernatural elements.

ASKING FOR IT begins with videos of “men’s rights” propaganda, which is all about dominating women (and, incidentally, non-white and LGBTQ people). Admirable in craft and monumentally depressing in practice, this part of the movie is pitch-perfect with the rhetoric permeating the real-world Internet these days.

Then we meet upbeat Joey (Kiersey Clemons), a cheerful young diner waitress in Guthrie, Oklahoma. Joey lives with her loving grandparents (Patricia Belcher and Wayne Dehart). She’s put off going to college and seems in no hurry to figure out what she’ll do with her life.

Then Joey’s old friend Mike (Casey Cott) returns to town. Joey goes out with him, he roofies her and rapes her in her own bed while she’s not fully conscious. When Joey comes to and realizes what’s happened, she’s traumatized. Her grandparents are concerned by the obvious change in her, but don’t know the cause.

Regina (Alexandra Shipp), a regular at the diner, has an educated guess as to what’s happened to the previously happy young woman. Regina invites Joey to go out with her one night. Joey specifies that she’s not gay, which is fine with Regina.

Regina takes Joey onto nearby Native American land (the filmmakers state in the end credits that ASKING FOR IT was shot on Wichita tribal lands, and thank the Wichita people for allowing this and working with the production). There’s a female commune here where some members stay close to home, grow herbs, perform hip-hop, and otherwise keep to themselves.

Other commune members, including Regina and leader Sal (Radha Mitchell), prefer to go out and “take action.” This ranges from rescuing women from abusive dates to getting retribution on a frat house where the members have gotten away with assault to, well, bigger things.

Joey decides she’d like to become part of the action group. Over the objections of hardcore fighter Beatrice (Vanessa Hudgens), Joey accompanies her new friends on a weekend of activity.

O’Rourke is careful to include a number of good-guy male characters, lest the audience feel that he’s condemning the whole gender. He does, however, fully endorse almost whatever his heroic women, mostly of color, can rain down on perpetrators of sexual abuse.

Joey winds up as the primary voice of conscience here. She raises an issue that’s worth more discussion. We understand why we don’t get it – there’s a lot going on at the moment – but it’s kind of a shame.

ASKING FOR IT is an eyeful in terms of color, and an earful in terms of sound: bright and glowing and rhythmic. The film is also not prurient, as the attack on Joey is shown in quick memory glimpses, and other incidents are discussed rather than depicted.

A lot of time is spent simply on the mostly young women enjoying each other’s company. It captures a feeling of female camaraderie that’s pleasing and recognizable.

Clemons gives a sensitive performance, incorporating lingering elements of sorrow into Joey’s newfound sense of belonging. Shipp has focus and charisma as Regina, and Mitchell puts a lot of power into Sal. Liam Hemsworth brings an apt Western spirit to a pure-hearted sheriff, and Ezra Miller does well as a weaselly “male power” group leader. David Patrick Kelly has conviction as a power broker who’s sure of how the world works.

ASKING FOR IT feels a bit scattered at times. The title, a common term used by rapists to justify their actions, never really comes into play here (the “men’s rights” guys here are well beyond needing any justification beyond their ability to physically overpower a victim). There’s also a subplot about sex trafficking that feels like overkill, especially because it turns out that the movie doesn’t really have time to deal with it.

There’s also a huge plausibility issue, even granting the wish-fulfillment aspects of the commune. Characters rightly state that women, especially women of color, are seldom listened to by law enforcement. The corollary, which is that crimes against white men usually are heard, doesn’t get much consideration here. There are a few expressions of concern, but consequences for the protagonists’ vigilantism seem relatively limited.

ASKING FOR IT is the kind of agitprop, messy movie that has drawbacks and plot holes, but ultimately manages to use serious issues to have some fun.

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