Palmetto

In a town this bad it’s no use being good.

Premiered: In US theaters on February 20th, 1998
Directed by: Volker Schlöndorff
Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery
MPAA Motion Picture Rating: Rated R for sexuality, language and some violence

Cast:

Woody Harrelson … as Harry Barber
Elisabeth Shue … as Rhea Malroux / Mrs. Donnelly
Gina Gershon … as Nina
Chloë Sevigny … as Odette Malroux
Rolf Hoppe … as Felix Malroux
Michael Rapaport … as Donnelly
Tom Wright … as John Renick
Marc Macaulay … as Miles Meadows
Joe Hickey … as Lawyer
Ralph Wilcox … as Judge
Peter Paul DeLeo … as Bartender
Hal Jones … as Ed
Salvador Levy … as Driver
Richard Booker … as Billy Holden

Status: Out on Region 1 DVD.

Overview
Memorable Odette Quotations
Said of Palmetto
Palmetto Trivia
Critical Reception
Palmetto Online


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Content Warning: Please note that Chloë Sevigny has appeared in many R-rated movies which contain material unsuitable for young or sensitive audiences due to their mature, violent, frightening or otherwise graphic footage or content. If you are sensitive to this kind of content, some material presented on our site, such as screen caps and video clips from the movie itself, may not be suitable for you.


More photos in our Palmetto gallery


Overview

From The Internet Movie Database:

After being released from prison on a bum charge, Harry Barber is out for some payback to regain the two years he has lost. He is hired by Mrs. Malroux to fake the kidnapping of her stepdaughter (the daughter of a dying millionaire). He discovers that he is being set up on multiple levels and will soon face a longer prison sentence if he does not prove the truth to the police.

Chloë Sevigny appears in the film in a supporting role as Odette Malroux, a snobbish and smart-mouthed teenager whom Harry is hired to mock kidnap in a scam for $500,000 in ransom money from Odette’s father.


Memorable Odette Quotations

Harry: “Can I get you a Coke or something?”
Odette: “Don’t you have anything stronger than that?”
Harry: “No, the law says you gotta be 21 to drink in this state.”
Odette: “So?”
Harry: “I always obey the law.”

Odette: “My granddad used to wear suspenders.”
Harry: “So did mine.”

Odette: “So is Harry Barber your real name, or did you make it up?”
Harry: “What’s the matter, you don’t like it?”
Odette: “No, I love it. It sounds delicious. It’s just that you don’t look like a ‘Harry Barber’.”
Harry: “Oh, really? What’s a ‘Harry Barber’ supposed to look like?”
Odette: “I don’t know. I’ve never met one before.”
Harry: “Odette Malroux, what kind of a name is that?”
Odette: “Malroux’s French. Odette’s from my mother’s side. She was from New Orleans.”
Harry: “‘Was?'”
Odette: “She, um… drove herself off a cliff in the Pyrenees Mountains three years ago.”
Harry: “Sorry to hear that.”
Odette: “They never did figure out if she meant to or not.”
Harry: “So Rhea’s your stepmother?”
Odette: “I’d hardly call her my stepmother. She’s more like a big sister. We’re only 14 years apart.”
Harry: “Yeah, well, she refers to you as her stepdaughter.”
Odette: “That’s her problem.”

Harry: “You mind if I ask what it is you, uh… need the money for?”
Odette: “My father wants to send me away to boarding school, one of those awful, boring Swiss schools run by awful, boring Swiss nuns. He doesn’t like the idea of me being so American.”
Harry: “Well, why don’t you just tell him that you don’t wanna go?”
Odette: “Why don’t you tell him?”

Harry: “I’m just saying we need a story, you know, a simple story.”
Odette: “Let’s say I meet a girlfriend Saturday night. Let’s say we’re gonna have a drink and go to a movie. Let’s say my girlfriend shows up and can’t find me. Let’s say it’s because someone grabbed me out of a parking lot.”
Harry: “That’s not bad. Needs work, but it’s not bad.”
Odette: “You’re losing your hair, Mr. Barber.”

[Odette is in disguise, putting her things in the back of her car when a stranger bumps it with his own car door. Harry is observing from his car.]
Odette: Hey, fuckface, watch it!”
Harry: [to himself] “‘Fuckface?'”
Odette: “Look what you did, you put a fucking dent in my door!”
Driver: “Look, I’m sorry.”
Odette: “No, fuck ‘sorry,’ you can just pay for it.”
Harry: [to himself] “Give me a break.”
Driver: “I– I didn’t dent your door.”
Odette: “Yes you did! That’s gonna cost me a hundred bucks to get fixed…”
Harry: [to himself] “Let it go.”
Driver: “I’m not gonna give you a hundred dollars, young lady.”
Odette: “Your fucking deductible’s more than that! Just give me the money.”
Harry: [to himself] “Not good.”
[Harry gets out of his car while Odette and the stranger continue to argue.]
Odette: “Don’t fuck with me, mister!”
Driver: “Don’t screw around with me.”
[The stranger grabs Odette by her wig. Harry knocks him unconscious.]

Odette: “You know, Rhea told me you were gonna get paid $50,000 for this.”
Harry: “So?”
Odette: “You know what I said? ‘If he’s collecting 10 times that much, what makes you think he won’t take all the money and run?’ …This lipstick does not go with red hair. Anyway, she said you wouldn’t do that because you were predictably dishonest.”
Harry: “She said that?”
Odette: “I think she meant it as a compliment. Well, Harry Barber, are you? Predictable?”
Harry: “You know, I used to write for the Palmetto Ledger.”
Odette: “I don’t read the newspaper.”
Harry: “Why doesn’t that surprise me? Anyway, I was covering a none too exciting meeting in the city council. I step out back to have a smoke, and I notice there’s this brand new car out there. Expensive, foreign. You know, the kind like your daddy might drive, but unusual in Palmetto. And I see another new car. A big Lincoln. I see another one and another one, and pretty soon I notice there’s half a dozen shiny new cars, all parked in spots reserved for the city council.”
Odette: “What’s wrong with shiny new cars?”
Harry: “Well, nothing, except I discover that they’ve just voted to allow, uh, gambling boats to dock at Palmetto. So, the zoning commission’s in on it, the cops.”
Odette: “It’s a big story.”
Harry: “I write it up. I drop it on the editor’s desk. Next day I come in, and the owner of the paper himself calls me into his office. I think he’s gonna pin a medaI on me. Instead, he hands me a box of ashes. All my hard work.”
Odette: “Cocksucker.”
Harry: “And he tells me, ‘Harry, I can’t print your story. Take the money and forget you ever knew what a gambling boat was.'”
Odette: “Ooh, corruption at City Hall. What a shock.”
Harry: “Yeah, well, the shock came when that $10,000 ended up in an account with my name on it. So instead of a Pulitzer Prize, I end up serving two years of a four-year sentence.”
Odette: “And that did it, huh? The next time someone made you a large offer of small bills, you’re gonna take the money and run. Am I right?”
Harry: “You know, you’re very intuitive for someone your age.”

Harry: “All right, tell me what you’re gonna do.”
Odette: “Not again.”
Harry: “Well, just come on.”
Odette: “I buy a ticket using cash in the name Anne Hardaway. When I get to Miami, I check into the airport Holiday Inn — yuck! — and I don’t come out of my room till I hear from you.”
Harry: “All right, that’s good. Get going.”
Odette: “You know, Harry Barber, you don’t look predictable. But I guess I’m just not a very good judge of character.”
Harry: “How’s that?”
Odette: “I bet Rhea $100 you wouldn’t take the money out of her purse. And, you see, I lost.”
Harry: [narrating] “Why? Why didn’t I pull out right then and there?”

Harry: “Listen to me. The jig is up. We’re calling the whole thing off.”
Odette: “What do you mean ‘off’?”
Harry: “I mean, off as in over, kaput, done, finished.”
Odette: “I think you’re scared.”
Harry: “You’re damn right I’m scared. The cops know all about this. Get your ass on a plane and get back here. You understand?”
Odette: “Not until you get me my money.”
Harry: “Listen, you. I’m the one calling the shots around here.”
Odette: “No, Harry Barber. You’re just the hired help. Now if you don’t get me my money, I’m gonna have to do something stupid and adolescent. Like, call the police and tell them what you did to me in that bungalow.”

Odette: “I take it back, Harry Barber. You are predictable.”

Odette: “You know, I can’t help but think about what happened in that bungalow the other day.”
Harry: “What are you talking about? Nothing happened.”
Odette: “I know. It’s a shame.”


Said of Palmetto

Select quotations regarding the film from Chloë Sevigny and her co-workers:

On the filming experience:
Palmetto […] was just kind of a mess. The movie, the project, the people. It was my first big commercial endeavor and it soured me on working with big stars. I saw how they threw their weight around. [I enjoyed working with Woody Harrelson, b]ut Gina Gershon hardly ever spoke to me and Elisabeth Shue spent a lot of time giving me, um, acting tips.”
The New York Times interview, March 12th 2000


Palmetto Trivia

Trivia coming soon/not available.


Critical Reception

Reviews on Palmetto have generally been from mediocre to poor. Although some critics have commended Woody Harrelson and Chloë Sevigny for their respective performances, the general opinion has been that the film was all but thoroughly miscast and too over-the-top and comical for a serious film noir.

Rating: Internet Movie Database: 6.0/10 with c. 6,400 user votes counted
Rating: MetaCritic: 43/100 metascore, “Mixed or average reviews”
Rating: Rotten Tomatoes: 38% positive reviews (“Rotten”)

Excerpts from professional reviews:

“All of the pieces are here for a twisty film noir, and Harry’s dual role — as criminal and police mouthpiece — is Hitchcockian in the way it hides the perp in plain sight. But it doesn’t crackle. The director, Volker Schlondorff (The Tin Drum) doesn’t dance stylishly through the genre, but plods in almost docudrama style. And screenwriter E. Max Frye, working from James Hadley Chase’s novel Just Another Sucker, hasn’t found the right tone for an ending where victims dangle above acid baths. [—] The casting is another problem. Gina Gershon and Elisabeth Shue are the wrong way around. Gershon is superb as a lustful, calculating femme fatale (she shimmers with temptation in Bound and This World, Then the Fireworks). Shue is best at heartfelt roles. Imagine Barbara Stanwyck waiting faithfully behind the easel while Doris Day seduces the hero, and you’ll see the problem. Woody Harrelson does his best, but the role serves the plot, so he sometimes does things only because the screenwriter needs for him to. Palmetto knows the words, but not the music.”
– Roger Ebert, RogerEbert.com

“The opening scenes of Volker Schlondorff’s juicy film noir, Palmetto, evoke semitropical rot in southern Florida with such a deliriously sensual appreciation of evil that when the movie eventually runs amok, you can almost forgive it for becoming a shrill, comic self-parody. The film, adapted from a novel by James Hadley Chase, aspires to out-noir every other film noir that has been lumped under that popular term, including The Big Sleep (which it resembles), in plot trickery and steaminess. Like The Big Sleep, Palmetto finally gets lost in a haze of increasingly farfetched plot complications. But unlike its forerunner, it also amps up the horror to such a degree that by the time a character finds himself strung up and dangled over a vat of acid, you will be more inclined to giggle than to hold your breath. [—] Ms. Shue is nearly matched in sinister glamour by Ms. Sevigny, who creates a disturbing portrait of selfish, precociously sophisticated depravity. Not all the casting is so fortuitous.”
– Stephen Holden, The New York Times

“Adapted from the 1930s book Just Another Sucker by Rene Raymond (who used a pen name of James Hadley Chase — good move!), this film would seem to have all the elements for film noir. Give me sand, sweat and sex wrapped in a film noir package and I’m halfway there. But Palmetto is a Body Heat wanna-be that never catches fire. Unfortunately, everyone in the movie is miscast, especially Shue and Harrelson. And while there are plenty of twists and turns in this convoluted plot and nobody is what, or whom, they seem to be, the final destination is a letdown. The lighting and the mood are there. But overall, Palmetto is a couple of sandwiches short of a picnic.”
– Paul Clinton, CNN.com

Awards & Nominations

Palmetto has received no awards or award nominations.

Chloë Sevigny Online

Please note that the opinions expressed below are all 100% our own, not those of Chloë Sevigny or anyone affiliated with either her or the rest of the cast or crew.

Watching Palmetto I at no point really knew what to make of it, a combination of the made-for-TV and a bizarre ode to Woody Harrelson’s masculinity, all enveloped in a film noir-atmosphere which most of the time felt more unintendedly comical than in any way atmospherically serious (which the ever-present saxophone music doesn’t help, btw). That said, it’s not entirely rubbish — I’ve always liked Woody Harrelson, to be honest, Chloë Sevigny’s very good in her own role, and to the film’s credit it does serve a good twist about halfway through. Overall, it’s implausible and pretty silly (e.g. Harry goes from an ordinary small-town reporter to a hard-boiled criminal ok with just any way to dispose a body in just two years? Really?), so if you’re looking to watch a real quality detective noir, Palmetto probably isn’t the movie to turn to. But if you like Harrelson, Chloë Sevigny, or the genre, for a lazy Saturday night this should do just fine. :)

Our rating of the movie: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Our rating of Chloë’s performance: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆


Palmetto Online

Below are some Palmetto-related links that may be of interest to you.

Palmetto official site
Palmetto on IMDb.com
Palmetto on MetaCritic.com
Palmetto on RottenTomatoes.com
Palmetto on Wikipedia.org

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