Christine is desperately seeking employment. She doesn’t want to leave New York City and return to Michigan to teach, and doesn’t feel confident that her writing will bring in sufficient income. Although Christine’s story is happening in 1983, the same story could be told as a result of today’s recession. What do you do when you can’t find a job in your field? Well, you branch out and find the first job available.
It turns out that the first available job is as a ticket holder in a box office at an adult theater in Times Square. A few days after she begins the job, Christine meets her boyfriend Mark at a diner for lunch. He is a reporter focused on finding the connection between an organized crime group and the fisherman’s union. Christine listens politely to the details of his investigation and then reveals her new job to him.
Excitedly, she begins to describe the atmosphere of the Variety theater. Her clients are lonely and depressed, for the most part, but some are business men. She assures Mark that she never works alone. She works with the ticket holder, Jose, a vividly entertaining Luis Guzman. The theater smells of Lysol, and a lot of the chairs are broken. Christine is taken by surprise when Mark abruptly states that he has to leave, and that he will call her.
Most of the human interaction in Variety happen in this manner. One person is talking, one is listening. One person is being watched, the other is watching. Half of what we learn about Christine is relayed through answering machine messages. Relationships don’t appear to be reciprocal, and Christine’s actions don’t appear to be guided by a goal or even a particular interest. While Christine becomes interested in adult film and literature throughout the course of the film, it is unclear whether this interest is a result of an already existing curiosity she held, or if she is simply becoming more knowledgeable about her new line of work.
Variety offers thought provoking material for a feminist. Are relationships ever reciprocal, or equal? Are women empowered or degraded (or both) by working in the adult industry? The film introduces situations that allow for questions like these to be discussed. It adds to the discourse on women’s sexuality and a subculture that is geared towards the desires of a heterosexual, male population.
A part of the storyline that frustrated me involved Christine and Mark’s relationship. He is clearly unhappy about her choice of work. The two date throughout the movie, although the frequency of these dates decrease as the movie progresses. During their time together, Christine recites the plots of the latest films that have played at the Variety. The content is always explicit, and while she recites the events with fervor, Mark either ignores her or listens with an aura of quiet anger. It seems as though Christine is attempting to prove to Mark that she is enamored with her new career, but be is not convinced. I’m not either.