Eve Annenberg's debut feature, "Dogs: The Rise and Fall of an All-Girl Bookie Joint," is a sisterhood sitcom in search of a sense of humor. While it strives to cultivate its aesthetic anarchy and zero production values into ultra-hip comedy, this tale of the career crises, mother complexes and man troubles of a bunch of girlfriends in New York's Lower East Side just isn't funny. Commercial outlook appears to be marginal.

Eve Annenberg’s debut feature, “Dogs: The Rise and Fall of an All-Girl Bookie Joint,” is a sisterhood sitcom in search of a sense of humor. While it strives to cultivate its aesthetic anarchy and zero production values into ultra-hip comedy, this tale of the career crises, mother complexes and man troubles of a bunch of girlfriends in New York’s Lower East Side just isn’t funny. Commercial outlook appears to be marginal.

The death of her mother has a cathartic effect on Leila (Pam Columbus) both emotionally and economically, forcing her to find income fast to finance the burial. She starts by throwing a fundraiser party, selling the furniture and clothing of her similarly unemployed roommates Stephanie (Pam Gray) and Amina (Melody Beal), and getting in an extra tenant, the vaguely schizoid Gypsy (Annenberg).

When that still isn’t enough to pay off the funeral parlor, Leila hatches an idea for the quartet to set up their own illegal sports betting operation, looking to more experienced bookmaker Sammy (Toby Huss) for guidelines.

Plotting of the bookie joint’s rise and fall is a little distracted, serving mainly as a sideline to the roommates’ principal occupation of kvetching about relationships (or lack of them), often during group shower sessions. The girls’ problematic rapport with their mothers also get a regular workout, most awkwardly in a piano bar scene in which imagined mother-daughter dialogues take place while a vocalist croons.

Performances are appealing enough but almost immaterial, given the lack of sparkle in the writing. Characters are fairly interchangeable grunge eccentrics, too often relying on contrived quirks (one wears stuffed pantyhose on her head like a postmodern Mouseketeer) to fuel the already strained humor.

Crude sound and music tracks imprudently laid under many scenes make much of the dialogue hard to catch and consequently spread laughs even thinner. The pic was made for reportedly less than $ 100,000, and the filmmakers currently are angling for additional post-production money to refine some rough technical elements.

Dogs: The Rise and Fall of an All-Girl Bookie Joint

Production

A Homegrown Pictures production. Executive producer, Marcia Kirkley. Co-producers, Heather D'Adamo, Eve Annenberg. Directed, written by Eve Annenberg; additional dialogue, Stephanie Sharpe.

Crew

Camera (color, 16mm), Joe Foley, Wolfgang Held; editor, Jack Haigis; music, Crackersnatch, John Gunther, Richard Thompson, Whey Cooler; production design, Miro Bazac; sound, Peter Conlin, Larry Wakin, Fred Helm, Jen Diamond; line producer, D'Adamo; assistant director, Chad Braden. Reviewed at Rotterdam Film Festival (competing), Jan. 28, 1996. (Also in Berlin Film Festival -- market.) Running time: 80 MIN.

With

Sammy Cybernowski - Toby Huss
Leila Waskowicz - Pam Columbus
Stephanie - Pamela Gray
Arnie - Leo Marks
Bruce - Amedeo D'Adamo
Amina - Melody Beal
Gypsy - Eve Annenberg
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