“Theory of the Leisure Class” delivers its one unearned idea — Thorstein Veblen’s analysis of corrosive consumerism referred to in the title — as a bluntly spoken message in the final moments, long after this strained piece of American trailer-trash surrealism has expired from creative exhaustion. The filmmaking, extending from Amber Benson’s original story to Gabriel Niccolo Bologna’s helming, lacks control even as it attempts a woozy deconstruction of film noir. Best hope for pic, kicking around for a couple of years, could be Euro markets eager for roadside Yank weirdness with indie star Brad Renfro on the bill, but post-theatrical biz appears nil.
Bar owner Julie (co-producer Athena Stensland) is pressed for a story by L.A. Times reporter Cindie (Erika Brannan), who — in a low depiction of the ethics of that paper’s staff — pays the barkeep to talk. She tells of her lover Callie (Tuesday Knight) cheating on her husband Joe (Jon Cellini) and keeping more than Julie as a bedmate. Callie’s rotten life turns worse when her kids are murdered — possibly by her. McMillan (Michael Massee), a cowboy-style detective with aesthetic sensibilities, adds to the ridiculous hothouse atmosphere.