By definition, the purpose of criticism involves identifying strengths and weaknesses in creative endeavors. Often that leads to positive results, with appraisers lavishing artists with compliments. Sometimes it goes the other way. And every so often, a critic lands in the unfortunate position of having to remark on something like Philomena Nowlin’s performance in the blaxploitation-themed showbiz saga Miss Melody Jones, also known as Ebony Dreams. Before we travel down that path, let’s set the scene. Shot on a meager budget and made with an equally meager amount of imagination, Miss Melody Jones tells the story of an upbeat young woman who makes a living as a stripper in a Los Angeles nightclub while trudging through one humiliating audition after another in search of stardom. She gets comfort and support from her gay roommate and, eventually, a warmhearted paramour with his own cinematic ambitions, but life is unkind to Miss Melody Jones. At her lowest, she takes an acting role as a gang-rape victim in a nudie flick. There’s nothing here viewers haven’t seen a zillion times before, except for the inimitable Philomena Nowlin. A shockingly inept actress, Nowlin screams nearly every line, and she does so in one of the most dissonant voices you will ever encounter. Imagine the sound of a cat that just inhaled helium. Even Fran Drescher would cringe. Yet for some reason, Nowlin was given one long monologue after another, so a good 15 percent of the movie comprises nothing but a bug-eyed, hand-flailing Nowlin screeching at top volume. Overall, Miss Melody Jones is innocuous, if a bit threadbare from a narrative perspective. But with regard to the film’s singular leading performance, spare yourself if you value your eardrums and your sanity.
Miss Melody Jones: LAME