Asking For It, written and directed by Eamon O’Rourke, held a promise that it does not deliver on. Tonally confusing with disconcerting edits, bland dialogue, and low stakes, there is not much here to appreciate. A further issue with Asking For It is the lack of dimension with the characters. That presents a challenge connecting with them. I am a fan of women-led revenge films, but Asking For It misses the mark.
The film follows Joey (Kiersey Clemons), a waitress assaulted by an old friend after a date. She becomes friends with Regina (Alexandra Shipp) and a gang of women determined to get justice for women and teach abusive, violent men a lesson. The best part of Asking For It is the cast. The movie has Alexandra Shipp (tick, tick…Boom!), Kiersey Clemons (Lady and the Tramp), Ezra Miller (Zack Snyder’s Justice League), Vanessa Hudgens (tick, tick…Boom!), Radha Mitchell (Pitch Black), and Gabourey Sidibe (Precious).
Flat Characters Without A Dynamic Story
Each actor has talent, as evidenced by their previous work. Unfortunately, the issue is the dialogue and little to no character development. The characters lack dimension, and the character interactions are like walking into a situation mid-conversation and realizing there is more going on than the surface discussion. That is not bad, but all we get is the tragic, expositional backstory of characters like Regina and Beatrice (Vanessa Hudgens) and little else.
Further, the backstories feel jammed in for the audience instead of a natural offshoot of the film’s progression, character interactions and development. Since we learn nothing about each character save for their traumatic pasts, there is no investment beyond evil men get their comeuppance. I am all for those kinds of stories but I have to know the characters to some degree. I thought the film would be akin to Foxfire but I do not know what is it because I know next to nothing about the people I am with on this cinema journey.
More Comical, Less Scary Villains
Mark Vanderhill, Ezra Miller’s character, does not feel threatening but like a child trying on the villain role. Most scenes with him feel comical, so the film’s tone is all over the place. In Asking For It, I knew so little about them that I did not care about them or their connections to the other women. As such, there is little to give beyond a perfunctory, sympathetic cluck. The other villain, Morrill (David Patrick Henry), increases the stakes but only slightly because there is no emotional connection to the other characters,
Style Over Substance
The importance is on the surface aspects of the film: music, set, and costumes with little time giving range to any of the characters. The editing in Asking For It attempts to be artistic but does not have a purpose beyond aesthetics. There are too many montages of animals, youtube style videos, and more. It reminded me of Natural Born Killers, which is a plus but those edits in Asking For It felt pointless. They should have spent time ensuring the audience connected with the characters.
Asking For It feels less like a revenge-driven movie and more high-school comedy payback against bullies. The story is a daydream or revenge fantasy written by someone with no concept of the inner workings and what compels women to fight back. Moreso, it leaves their trauma as the only thing they are, rather than showing multifaceted individuals. Music and the characters’ styles are great, but there is little else because we do not know anything about these women except they know each other and have traumatic pasts. Villains are lackluster at best, and the final confrontation was bland. Despite the star power, Asking For It delivers a superficial revenge film, with minimal value beyond its style and cast.