The best way to kill a technically well made film is through a bad screenplay. Exhibit 1A: filmmaker Allison Anders’ 2003 Showtime film Things Behind The Sun. Ostensibly based upon Anders’ real life ‘trauma’ of being raped as a child, the film wallows in every manner of cliché on the subject of victimhood imaginable. It also wastes some fine performances, save that of the ever PC and increasingly hyperbolic Don Cheadle, whose performance here presages his terrible role in last year’s Oscar-winning Crash.
The tale is about a blond sexpot singer-songwriter, Sherry McGrale (Kim Dickens), whose life has fallen into the dregs of self-pity, alcohol, and self-destruction. This is because she has not been able to get over being gang raped, at fourteen, by the older brother and friends of a boy she cared for, and shared a love of music with. She has blocked out all memories of that time — even the boy’s name and where he lived.
That boy, Owen (Gabriel Mann, a younger, slimmer James Spader), has now grown up into a rock critic and interviewer, in Los Angeles, for Vinyl Fetish magazine. His boss is a woman named Pete — giving Rosanna Arquette her cameo. He flies to Florida to interview Sherry, after she's arrested for being drunk. She was smashed on the lawn of the house where she was raped (an event which, for some reason, she doesn't remember), for the third straight year. He interviews her also because her song on rape (a la Tori Amos) is climbing the charts.
If all the clichés of a rape/victim movie are present, they are added to by all the clichés of a rock and roll movie, as well as those of the tormented writer that Mann embodies. Yet, for all the clichés, the truth is that Sherry is simply a typical artsy ho or skank, whose wimpy black manager/ex-boyfriend Chuck (Cheadle) has not the strength nor verve to tell her to grow up. The all-worrying manager of a rock singer is yet another cliché the film is not shy in mining; although plaudits for the nonchalant way the interracial romance angle is accepted.
Owen, meanwhile, who loved Sherry before the rape, is looking to make amends, because after his brother Dan (Eric Stoltz) - now in prison for armed robbery - and pals had their go at Sherry, they physically (and melodramatically) dragged Owen out from his room, and forced him to have sex with her. Since that time he has never been able to have a good sex life, either failing to maintain an erection or coming too quickly (which we learn he did when he lost his cherry to Sherry).