Poison Ivy (1992)
Poison Ivy (1992)

Genre: Drama and Thriller Running Time: 1 hr. 32 min.

Release Date: May 8th, 1992 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Katt Shea Ruben Actors: Sara Gilbert, Drew Barrymore, Tom Skerritt, Cheryl Ladd, Alan Stock, Jeanne Sakata




erdy, boring, bespectacled, habitually-lying, poetry-reading feminist Sylvie Cooper (Sara Gilbert) isn’t thrilled by the blonde-haired, leather-jacket-wearing, short-skirted, tattooed, bad girl Ivy (Drew Barrymore), who attends the same high school. Nevertheless, Sylvie ponders what it would be like to be friends with the popular kid. They soon meet up for a deeper chat during detention; rebellious Sylvie was caught phoning in a bomb threat as a protest against her father’s controversial editorial, while Ivy is merely slipping in biology class.

“Dad, she’s my best friend!” When Mr. Daryl Cooper (Tom Skerritt), the KTVM news station general manager, picks up Sylvie from school, Ivy bums a ride, ensuring that he catches a good glimpse of her sprinkler-splattered legs. Sylvie and Ivy start up a friendship, largely based on their shared interests of nonconformity, uncomfortable relationships with their fathers, and a lack of other friends. But despite the ostensible innocence surrounding their unlikely closeness, something devious begins to stew, involving Ivy’s awareness of the Cooper family’s wealth, her insinuation into their home and lives, and the exploitable nature of Daryl’s intrigue in the sultry blonde – especially since his wife, Georgie (Cheryl Ladd), is distant and stays in bed with an abundance of health problems (seemingly hypochondria).

“I’m always out of place.” The first part of this drama could have been an introspective examination of a troubled teen’s grasp on life, relationships, self-esteem, jealousy, and reputation, along with a heartfelt look at the turmoil between a conflicted mother and her emotional daughter, and a desperate husband contending with a lost connection with his wife. But thanks to David Michael Frank’s noir music, interspersed with the twangs of softcore erotica notes (heavy on the saxophone) and romantic comedy melodies (including pop songs of the era) – plus Barrymore’s perpetually-bared midriff – it’s difficult to concentrate on the more serious, dramatic components. At the forefront are Ivy’s seduction tactics, which are almost out of place in comparison to the typical teen angst witnessed at the beginning.

Just when viewers might think “Poison Ivy” is smarter than it appears, it saunters back to the steamy material that lurks around every sequence in which Ivy flashes skin. Interestingly, due to Barrymore being underage during the time of filming, it’s all much tamer than target audiences might anticipate. There’s plenty of suggestion, but actual edgy footage is absent – yet another indication that the picture isn’t even devoted to embracing a major ingredient of its advertising appeal.

Indeed, the tone keeps switching so frequently that it’s obvious that “Poison Ivy” doesn’t really know what kind of film it wants to be. As the minutes tick away, the youthful friendship becomes less convincing, the Coopers’ familial strife becomes less amusing, and the morbidity of Ivy’s intrusion and manipulation – and identity takeover – loses steam. By the time the climax approaches, ever so slowly, feeling as if hours longer than it is, the acting weakens and the revelations pale – partly because actions are shown to the audience before the characters are informed, and largely due to the few, final, unfolding mysteries failing to inspire thrills. Plus, the closing scene is absolutely terrible. “She’s got you too, hasn’t she?”

– Mike Massie

  • 2/10