I had heard of this film while I was searching high and low for films that explore or at least purport to represent the goth subculture, and this independent coming-of-age drama certainly had a lot of potential. Of course, I retained my scepticism towards the film. After all, from my experience, goths are rarely represented well in the media (most films and TV shows that I know feature goth characters don’t even write them as anything close to normal people), and it turns out that Gypsy 83, for all its alternative posturing, is merely an indie coming-of-age drama with gothic window dressing.
The film revolves around 25-year-old Gypsy Vale, a moody young woman who works at a drive-through photo processing centre (remember when you had to get take your camera to get photos developed?) with a driving obsession with Stevie Nicks. She and her flamboyant goth friend Clive Webb go on a journey from their home in Sandusky, Ohio to New York City to attend the “Night of a Thousand Stevies”, a tribute event in which any Stevie Nicks imitator is allowed to take the stage. Along the way, they work though their issues with identity, abandonment, and come to terms with how they are.
Personally I don’t know why the writers felt that Stevie Nicks was the best choice of a plot device for a movie about goth culture. I’ve looked at a few goth forums, and this subject matter has been put up for debate, but the consensus is that she any has vague connections with the movement. Anyway, the story itself reads like an angsty teen drama, and it gives off the impression that the film’s goth characters live in a state of constant emotional adolescence, which is simply wrong. It appears Todd Stephens (the director) thinks being goth is all about melodrama, and the end result seems like a mixture of teen drama and gay romance, with a particularly unvarnished look at the latter.
As goths, the main characters don’t exactly convince me (though Kett Turton’s character definitely looks the part), but as outsiders in general, the two have very good chemistry. Sure, they can be a bit too melodramatic, but I don’t doubt the sincerity with which their enduring friendship is depicted. The other characters, meanwhile, don’t do very well, and one of the worst is an Amish man who hitches a ride with the main character just to cheat on his wife, though I personally don’t think he’s worse than the film’s frat boys (a typical plot device in films like these).
The film looks kind of like a made-for-TV film, but with slightly better production values. One thing that should be of note is that the film used a number of songs by goth artists/bands, from more obscure bands like Claire Voyant and Mechanical Cabaret, to Bauhaus and The Cure, the famous pioneers of gothic rock. One thing that continues to elude me is why they didn’t even consider using music from Christian Death, the legendary deathrock band that basically established the goth scene in America, so even mentioning them would have made the film more believable as a goth film. Instead, the script names a bunch of fictional bands, and while I like the music they used, they probably could have picked a better selection.
Overall, while it is flawed and hard to take seriously, and even though the goth characters were pretty stereotypical, I did kind of enjoy the film, and for better or worse, it’s certainly an unconventional take on a very familiar genre.
- Score: 67%
- Grade: C