Goddess of Love
A mentally unstable woman begins a volatile descent into madness when she suspects her lover has left her for another woman.
My late, great uncle was always rather fond of the female form. I have a vivid memory of him attending a college production of Kander & Ebb’s Chicago – in which I had a substantial role. As is necessary for that show, most of the ladies are scantily clad as they make their way through the many dance numbers – Bob Fosse-style. Yes, these were all college-aged ladies, but when I told my uncle about all of the skin he would see, he just smiled. What I remember though, is that after the show, he said something along the lines of “Yes, that was nice for the first few minutes of the show, but after that, I just became so involved in the show itself, that I forgot about the skin and just enjoyed the production.”
I mention this – not to paint my uncle as some old perv (he wasn’t) but because my recent screening of Goddess of Love at the First Annual Horror Haus Film Festival, made me fondly remember this exchange.
The lead actress in Goddess of Love spends the majority of the film naked. She’s a fit and beautiful lady to be sure, but regardless of your expectations coming into the film – you’ll leave with other important memories which have nothing at all to do with the film’s frequent nudity.
Venus (Alexis Kendra) is a stripper with a somewhat clouded history in professional ballet. She fills her life with drinking and drugs, still occasionally taking ballet lessons and spending many lonely nights in her uniquely-decorated apartment. When she meets and connects with an equally-lonely widower named Brian (Woody Naismith) during a lap-dance, a love affair begins. Along with this new potential for an end to Venus’ debilitating loneliness, is the sparking (re-sparking) of clear mental issues, including depression, paranoia and hallucinations. Add into this mix, Brian’s questionable relationship with his late wife’s best friend Christine (Elizabeth Sandy) and Venus’ jealousy begins to reign supreme.
It’s a cliché term to be sure, but “tour-de-force performance” is the very least of phrases I can use when describing the work of Alexis Kendra in this film. Taking cues from Catherine Tramell’s (Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct) sociopathic behavior, but adding in hints of the true darkness of a harsh mental illness, Kendra garners heaping helpings of sympathy – certainly not easy for such an oddball and dangerous character. It’s easy to say it was a great performance (which it is), but it’s much harder to determine the why. Emotionally, Kendra serves up a smorgasbord – happy in a manic way when she and Brian are together and tearful when they’re apart. And then there’s that blank psycho expression (my husband likes to point out that I get that particular blank look when in the middle of an argument). Well, Kendra nails it – all over the place, but in one particular scene, it’s truly chilling. There’s such nuance and such attention to detail, it’s really a performance which should be experienced – thus the reason why it’s so difficult to define – there’s just so much going on. Kendra also co-wrote and produced the film. In addition, she is credited as the production designer. I was told that Venus’ apartment was Kendra’s own, but completely revamped to suit Venus. With such deep involvement in so many aspects of the production, the acting term “method” hardly seems descriptive enough.
As Venus’ love interest Brian, Naismith brings a fair amount of manipulation (some real, some of it only perceived) and Brian’s sadness at his wife’s death is always lingering about – no matter how hard Venus tries to love him and no matter how hard she tries to make him forget. He’s kind of an everyman, looking for love in all the wrong places. He’s a perfect foil for Venus – and you’ll feel some sympathy for Brian – that is when you’re not worrying about Venus.
In a supporting role, Elizabeth Sandy (she looks like she could be Harley Jane Kozak’s sister) as Christine; offers some authentic and very fun bitchiness which is absolutely delightful. Every moment she’s on-screen, you’ll revel in her (real or perceived) nastiness. Sandy deservedly won a Best Supporting Actress at the inaugural Horror Haus Film Festival.
And as co-stripper Chanel, Monda Scott offers plenty of comic relief as the only person at the strip club who cares for Venus and her apparent mental instability. From the moment Ms. Scott arrives, she commands the screen with her larger-than-life, no-nonsense character – which is no easy feat, considering how fantastic Ms. Kendra is.
Originally titled the far more appealing Venus, the film is about Venus’ descent into madness and her ever-expanding paranoia. One of the magical things about the film, is that the further you follow Venus into her downward spiral, the more you’ll realize that you’ve become unsure of what is real and what is not. The film truly manipulates you.
There are a couple of standout scenes which are extremely hurtful to Venus (not physically), and in turn, very painful for the audience. These are shining examples of how much the audience has come to care for this character – despite all of the things she does to herself and others… and despite the very real fear she invokes in the audience. One involves a gift and the other involves a text message. “Ouch” perfectly describes both.
The film does have a twist ending, which I absolutely did not see coming – but it works (mainly due to reaction by Scott as Chanel). It’s not on the level of say, The Sixth Sense as far as shock value – as you already know that Venus is so damaged and so beyond help – it’s just a major detail which will surprise you – it did me.
With a frightening but very sympathetic performance from its lead actress and a sleek production, Goddess of Love is definitely a film worthy of your time, your praise and in the case of lead actress Alexis Kendra – your awe.
I have a feeling my late uncle also would have approved. He certainly liked women but he also loved great movies.
At Horror Haus Film Festival, Goddess of Love was nominated for Best Feature Film and it won for Best Supporting Actress (Elizabeth Sandy) as well as an Audience Choice Award.
Was Kendra nominated for Best Lead Actress? Shockingly, sadly and inexplicably – no she was not.
Goddess of Love is now available on DVD/VOD.