October  2003 - Entertainment Today


Reviewed by Brent Simon

There have been over the years a decent number of attempts at plumbing the behind-the-scenes workings of the fashion world for both dramatic and comedic effect (Robert Altman’s criminally boring Ready To Wear still unfortunately springs to mind, though for all the wrong reasons). Yet I suspect there hasn’t been a truly brilliant crossover film set in that milieu because everyone’s sneaking suspicion (or the thinking man’s, at least) about the fashion industry—namely that it’s high school cattily recast, with the boho misfits wreaking sartorial havoc on the rest of the world, or at least the rich idiots now too paranoid to call a potato sack a bad idea as pants—is actually… well, pretty true. I’m not sure from whence she came—industry insider, cog in the machine or self-avowed fashionista—but writer-director Michele Maher’s Garmento has a good bit of fun with its setting, marking her directorial debut as an agreeable indie treat.

The story takes place in New York City’s wholesale garment industry, where fashion aspirant Grindy (rhymes with “windy) Malone (Katie MacNichol) lands a job with fading trendsetter Pancho Ramirez (Juan Carlos Hernandez). Pancho, a nervous and frequently oblivious man-child, finds his ultra-chic company on the ropes after his special crotch-bulge underwear fails to catch fire. Against the wishes of harridan Franca Fortuna (Saundra Santiago, affecting Arianna Huffington), whose position is rather indeterminate, disenchanted company president Ronnie Grossman (David Thornton) inks a partnership deal with Ira Gold (Jerry Grayson) and his decidedly un-slick brother-in-law Louie Purdaro (Matt Servitto). Ira has capital, you see, but as the purveyor of a worn-out brand—Romeo Jeans—no hipness; Pancho Ramirez, the company, finds itself in the exact opposite position.

The match made of necessity finds its young bonds tested when, on Grindy’s suggestion, Pancho Ramirez decides to re-launch his eponymous designer jeans line, the product that first made him famous. (Its smoldering, hair-flipping catchphrase: “Peel off my Ponchos!”) When a denim shortage forces a little creative problem-solving, corporate bloodletting and insider-trading schemes follow. Exactly who, if anyone, will be left holding the bag?

Much of Garmento is deft in its light-hand skewering of the fashion industry and its attendant sub-sets. Yet can’t quite escape the feeling that the film is more a collection of characters in search of a story than a rigidly realized narrative; the film pays like an episodic for which you missed a few shows here and there. You still know what’s going on, but certain jumps lack the clarity of a logical progression. There’s also a question as to who exactly is the central focus in the movie—it seems to be Grindy, but her transformation to corporate shrew, never fully convincing, isn’t intimately sketched, and she drops out of the movie for a bit—especially crucial since there really aren’t that many sympathetic characters for which to root. Its satire could use a bit of sharpening, certainly, but overall Garmento escapes the curse of its fashion setting. (Spanish Moss, R, starts Oct. 3, limited)"