Documentary Review: "Rocking the Couch" (2019)
Ever heard the term “casting couch”? Sure you have. A term that’s been around the movie industry since the early 1900’s, the phrase is synonymous with starry-eyed young actresses so desperate to get that big movie role (and men so pathetic and desperate for sex that they have to leverage their power or outright assault someone) that they’ll do anything to be famous. It’s real, it happens, it’s hideous…and it’s probably still happening even in the wake of the Bill Cosby/Harvey Weinstein/Kevin Spacey scandals.
Rocking the Couch aims to bring to light the case of 12 unknown actresses who said the hell with the complicit SAG/AFTRA system and brought criminal charges against talent agent Wallace Kaye in 1992. In a precursor to the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements of today, these women (along with an undercover police officer) brought Kaye to justice and the maximum sentence. There’s a dark side to the story, though, as their careers were still ruined and the problem remained largely ignored until the present day. Why? This documentary works to expose that (if not figure it out).
With a running time 65 minutes, Rocking the Couch rushes by and feels, in its presentation, like a show on the E! Network without all of the extra polish on it. There are various cuts to an L.A. Criminal Defense Attorney by the name of Stephen G. Rodriguez that explain the legality of sexual harassment (as opposed to sexual assault) that feel a bit like a classroom 101, ham-handed and breaking the connection.
That’s not to say that the information is worthless, though. The advice on what to do after you’ve been assaulted is something that every victim should know, and understanding where you can set yourself up for disaster and make the other party legally hunky-dory is invaluable. Kudos for sacrificing a little style points for the sake of safety.
While the entertainment value and polish of Rocking the Couch leaves something to be desired, it’s clear that oohs and ahs aren’t what writer/director Minh Collins is going for. It’s not flashy, but he wants you to see that this is a problem that has been swept under the rug for decades upon decades in Hollywood. In that respect, the film succeeds on multiple levels. The stories are presented in straightforward and honest interviews that tell an ugly story and are effective in doing their part to open your eyes. They tell of a day and age that is rapidly going the way of the dodo bird and beepers, a day and age when a story like that could be swept under the rug.
Hollywood is changing, and it is for the better.
To their credit, though, a fair job is done of presenting the counterpoint (playing devil’s advocate, if you will) that there will always be those who will jump at that opportunity without a lick of shame. In and of itself, that’s an important lesson and presenting the counterpoint is an important aspect of a documentary. It’s not pretty, but given the subject matter that’s par for the course. There are, after all, two sides to every story.
While it lacks the splash and style of a big, breakthrough documentary (pardon the irony), Rocking the Couch nonetheless presents a story that should be heard and a lesson that is important to remember. You know, I do believe that was the point…
3.0 out of 5.0 stars