The role of German sex tourist was something that Udo Kier may have been building up to for all of his career; certainly it would be hard to cast anyone else as such a thing, even if they could speak as good English as Udo.
The film Holly (2007) however is, like Udo Kier’s role in it, fairly perfunctory, although the subject is of interest and it has several things going for it. To be appluaded, for example, is the fact that the Khmer spoken in Holly is not subtitled, and although that is confusing at first, it really ends up adding a great deal. Holly is also shot on location in Pnomh Penh, which is great to see, and it includes a decent cast which includes Ron Livingston and Chris Penn, the latter who filled an amazing array of roles including Nice Guy Eddie in Reservoir Dogs, before he died at the age of 40 – this was his penultimate film, as it happens.
I also find myself forgiving Holly’s formulaic writing, perhaps because my attention was held as I suspected something surprising might happen — although it didn’t. The film’s only great sin is a totally lousy performance by Virginie Ledoyen, but its minor sins are all forgivable, because more than any other drama like it, Holly exists to make a point – which is to highlight what a complex issue child prostitution and sex tourism is.
To its credit, Holly is far less extreme than its subject matter might suggest, and there are no scenes of lewdness or nudeness, which is a good thing. Instead we see how unavoidable child prostitution is, and how no matter where the 12 year old Holly goes, she is one way or another going to be sucked into this trade.
Udo Kier has annoyingly little to do in Holly, but he has a crucial role nonetheless as the voice of sex tourism – and in a short speech he offers the philosophical justification for what his character is doing – not a popular thing, but valuable in the circumstances. As I’ve said, the film is successful even with a poor script; and by poor script I mean that the coincidence levels in the drama are phenomenal. The film doesn’t try and enter the mind of a sex tourist, paedophile or prostitute; it just shows the basic unpleasantness of the trade and the poverty that drives it.
And it shows Udo Kier, breezing handsomely through another role, smooth, sauve, cult, handsome, queer and magnetic to the full. It must have been a strange and prfound outing for him; no horror and no science fiction, no monsters or demonic plots about battles from the future. Drama, you could call it, and he is every ounce up for it.