Laura Clifford Robin Clifford
Mack and Angel Moore, senior Christian cemetary/funeral parlor owners from Eugene, Oregon, had a unique retirement idea. They sold their death related businesses in the dreary Northwest and moved to sunny Nevada, where they purchased Fran's Star Ranch, a legal brothel which they renamed. Director Doug Lindeman's documents their new business in "Angel's Ladies."
"Angel's Ladies" sounds like a great idea for a documentary, especially given the background of the business' new owners (Mack is seventy, Angel fifty-five). Lindeman even captures the prurient interest of the public when he invites a tourist couple to go inside with him (funnily enough, its the wife who thinks it 'sounds like fun,' while the husband is concerned about their timetable). However, "Angel's Ladies" quickly outwears its welcome.
We're introduced to Mack and Angel as decent people who believe they're providing a needed service. Angel, in particular, is showcased grieving the loss of her two sons (one to illness, another to an accident) and first husband while likening their three 'girls' to her new family. Yet Lindeman is holding many things about this couple back, information that is shockingly abhorrent when revealed midway into the film. This holding back of information for dramatic effect later on seems dishonest.
The three prostitutes who we meet at "Angel's Ladies" are very different. Kevin is an outdoorsy horsewoman who seems pretty down to earth. Linda is friendly with Kevin and seems like the ex-suburban wife she was, but is given far less screen time than Kevin or Melody. Melody is the harshest of the three, seemingly more suited to the trade. Her recollections of things she's done to satisfy men's fetishistic fantasies become more and more offputting (as does the relish with which she relays them) as the documentary trudges on.
And trudge on this does, with increasingly repetitious shots of the girls cavorting in the desert in work costumes while addressing the camera crosscut with Angel becoming more and more defensive about the way she does business. The only person who seems to be making out at "Angel's Ladies" is the housekeeper, who professes to mostly sitting around drinking coffee.
Technically "Angel's Ladies" resembles a pretty good cable access production. Some editting choices are juvenile (repeat jump cuts to make someone 'dance' for example) while the music is cheesy and distracting.
Mack Moore, a cemetery kingpin in Eugene, Oregon, and his second wife, Angel, a widowed funeral director, sold it all and moved to the frontier hamlet of Beatty, Nevada, located halfway between Death Valley and the Nuclear Weapons Testing Range. The couple purchased the local brothel, Fran's Star Ranch, and shifted careers from caring for the dead to servicing the living in the documentary film, "Angel's Ladies."
The idea of "Angel's Ladies" is an interesting one. A middle aged couple, he 70 and she 55, pick up their long-established roots in the damp northwest and plunk themselves down right next to the hottest place on earth to run a cat house. There is ready made interest in why they did it, what their plans are, who are the women working for the Moores and why are they there.
Things start off in a pretty straightforward manner with a succession of talking heads and panoramic view of the scrub brush of the desert and the ticky-tacky brothel building. But, it becomes obvious very fast that the video makers have not learned their craft too well. In this day of inexpensive, high quality video and audio equipment, there is no reason for poor camera work and bad sound from a so-called professional filmmaker. Both of these quality problems are rampant through the entire film. I have seen local cable access programs that have better production values. The cheesy production also extends to the lousy use of music to bridge many moments in the documentary.
The subject matter is intriguing, but the execution of it is not. What starts out as a document of the Moores and their unusual business in the middle of nowhere, Nevada, turns into a rather strange tale of misperceptions, labor problems and Angel taking an active part in servicing the brothel's clients. Moore, at one point, claims that he never "dates" his girls. The ladies counter his claim saying, sure, he always hits on them. Mack and Angel say that the women are totally loyal to the couple. Then, we hear about the labor problems from the hookers. As the docu progresses, we become increasingly confused as to the point of the film and why we are here.
The docu glosses over any in-depth investigation, like the impact of brothels on the local community. This is glossed over with a few interview shots of town officials telling us that the brothel tax pays for the town's emergency services and it's all a good thing. We don't get into the heads of Mack and Angel (nor would I want to be) or really learn much about the why and wherefore of the women working at Angel's Ladies Brothel. When the film ended, I wondered about the point of the film and the time I wasted watching it.
I give "Angel's Ladies" a D-
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