Watch the trailer HERE
Despite languishing in unreleased hell for a year in the U.S. and not even having an official distributor here in the UK, we thought we’d show you this trailer for Middle Men (made in 2009, directed by George Gallo) because it brings to light the difficult task of recent period costume design.
The period in question is 1995. The story of this ‘based on true events’ comedy concerns nothing less than the birth of chargeable internet pornography. Wayne Beering (Giovanni Ribisi) and Buck Dolby (Gabriel Macht) are two horny lady lovers with the idea of creating the first online billing service for adult entertainment. They meet straight-laced married businessman Jack Harris (Luke Wilson) who, enlightened, makes their idea a reality. The next thing the trio know they have the FBI and organised crime on their tail. Then Jack falls in love with a porn star, which tends to complicate his home situation.
Anthea Sylbert, costume designer for Rosemary’s Baby (shot in 1968) admitted that particular film was one of her toughest challenges as it was set at the beginning-middle of the decade. The sixties was perhaps the fastest moving fashion decade ever and because her protagonists were young, trendy individuals with a distinct personal style, their clothes needed to reflect this.
Consider a comparable situation nowadays; costuming a film set in the 1970s is relatively straightforward as vintage clothes have never been so popular. Try making a movie set in, say, 2003 and the problems of sourcing become more evident. Admittedly Middle Men is set during the 1990s, not an especially specific decade sartorially, but there were still notable signifiers, something that costume designer Sharen Davis (The Book of Eli, Dreamgirls) seems to have picked up on.
For men, the nineties was a time of ventless suits worn without ties. For women, Lycra was the way forward. In everything from stretch dresses to hosiery, the look was seen everywhere, from television (try Friends and UK sitcom Game On) to the high street. Off the peg designer names were big business, as was a retro revival for both sexes, mainly incorporating the 1960s and 70’s.
Watching the Middle Men trailer we can Ribisi and Macht wearing colourful print seventies esque shirts and aviator sunglasses. Luke Wilson is often in an unstructured suit, sometimes without tie, and occasionally sporting a polo shirt underneath. Most of the female cast represented appear to be porn stars so their clothes are specific to the vibe that industry projects. Watching the film proper it will be interesting to see what costume direction Davis has taken with, for example, the character of Jack Harris’ non-porno wife.
Middle Men is released in the U.S .on 6th August. Hopefully it will arrive in the UK a short while after, and preferably not via the degrading straight-to-DVD route.
© 2010 – 2012, Christopher Laverty.