Nevada is the main birthplace of legalized prostitution in the United States. Two of the people we can thank for this are Grace and Charlie Bontempo whose story is explored in the film Love Ranch. Helen Mirren and Joe Pesci deliver fine performances as the married couple that took hookers from the street to the brothel and made themselves a lot of money in the process.
There’s a lot going on in Love Ranch, which is based on true events. Charlie has to contend with his newfound property, an Argentinean boxer, his love of money, sex, and power, and his own explosive temper that leads down very dark paths.
Meantime his wife must deal with the girls who work at the ranch and their drama, her ill-tempered husband, a potential illness, and a sudden love affair that develops and explodes between her and another man. Add in the hookers, the boxer, and the religious protesters and you’ve got a lot taking place.
While this is the case, I also think that the abundance of storylines hurts the overall story about the trials and tribulations of this couple. The film has some very dramatic and touching moments to be sure, but I wish there had been more time spent exploring who these two people were and how they got to where they currently are in life.
I also would have liked to see more about the hookers and the men who come to the Love Ranch. There are short sequences while the women are chosen and then in the bedroom, but a little more would have been nice.
I liked the film as a whole. I think Mirren (with a country accent and always entertaining) and Pesci (who seems to be having a lot of fun) do a great job and the supporting cast is excellent as well. I think this film only scratched the surface when exploring the inner-workings of an industry much maligned and demonized through the ages.
Bonus Features include: Audio Commentary with Director Taylor Hackford; Introduction by Taylor Hackford and Helen Mirren; and Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary. The Blu-ray features a really cool “Heartbreak Mode” feature that allows you to “insert” the deleted scenes back into the film (although it does it in a pretty choppy manner).
Love Ranch isn’t for everyone, but if you’re a fan of Helen Mirren, Joe Pesci, or are curious about the beginnings of legal brothels in Nevada, check it out.
Love Ranch is available NOW on DVD and Blu-ray!
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