For fans of the multi-faceted Cher, Chastity represents a tantalizing glimpse into the early stages of the career of someone who would one day become universally recognized as an extraordinary acting talent. The film unfortunately doesn’t have much going for it generally speaking, but one cannot ignore its value as a piece of history in the very colorful life of one of today’s top entertainers.
Chastity (Cher) is a young runaway thumbing her way across the country with no purpose in mind except to simply see what the world is like. During her travels she meets a series of strangers, mostly men, who she treats with undisguised contempt, sometimes with good reason, sometimes not, until one day she finds herself in a Mexican bordello under the brief but disturbing care of the house Madame. Distressed as much by her feelings as by her surroundings, Chastity once again runs away, this time returning to the home of a kind-hearted man she encountered previously. Unfortunately she is unable to escape the demons that haunt her past, and jut as it seems things are looking up for her she is driven away, doomed to repeat the cycle of hitched rides, encounters with strangers, and finding no place in which she can truly feel safe.
Cher’s performance as a self-reliant but generally unhappy runaway is about as believable as any performance can be, no doubt because it draws from some of the actress’ real-life experiences. The way she stands, her expressions, the ways in which she moves all telegraph her emotions, or lack thereof, as clearly as if she were shouting them at the camera. Her dialogue and the narration are dismally overwritten in many places and as a result her performance suffers at these times, but her expressiveness and vitality shine through during moments of self-confident levity and strong emotion. In particular I enjoyed the scenes involving cons, where she manages to scrape the money together she needs to keep moving. The time between these moments of amusement and emotional challenge however is as dreadfully uninteresting as the overall plot is depressing. Chastity seems incapable of being happy, and is destined to get herself into one dangerous situation after another in what will likely become a self-fulfilling prophecy. One day she will encounter the man she perceives all men to be and will suffer the consequences because she unwisely places herself in harm’s way. It is hard to connect or sympathize with a character who is the vehicle of her own unhappiness.
As I mentioned before, this film will very likely be considered a must-see by anyone who is even slightly curious about Cher as an actress, and to those people I say you will not be disappointed. Everyone else, however, will probably find it extraordinarily dull, if they even manage to survive the opening sequence (a minute and a half of Cher, inexplicably, running across a barren landscape… yikes!).
Once again I am dismayed to find no extra material on this DVD outside of a Teaser Trailer which I would, by the way, hardly call a “tease”. Given the significance of this film with respect to Cher’s career I would have thought someone would have had the sense to include some interviews, a filmography, an A&E Biography-type look at Cher’s accomplishments, something! Honestly, I just don’t understand why DVD producers bother with a DVD release when they are going to provide nothing more than what a VHS tape can do.