It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
She was Germany's uber-groupie, a provincial Bavarian girl who lucked her way onto a magazine cover, became a famous model, slept with Jimi Hendrix and Mick Jagger, and had something a little more than that with Keith Richards. Along the way, she was also involved with a radical commune, was on the cover of Playboy, traveled the world with a playboy in the bus he constructed for her and gave a face to the word Eurotrash.
Uschi Obermaier was a real woman. She slept her way to what looked like the top to her, but she was fiercely independent, rejected all offers of marriage, walked out on contracts to indulge her free spirit and lived the life all groupies dream about (I guess). Then she told all in her autobiography, High Times. The distance "eight miles" has been added to the movie title no doubt in reference to Byrds' song.
Critics have pretty much hated this film, although some have been kind ("Deliciously dumb, reasonably well-made," Andrew O'Hehir, Salon). It has much to be kind about. Natalia Avelon plays Uschi with a disdain for bras and blouses, her radical boyfriend has more hair than Angela Davis, her playboy boyfriend leaps about with the frenzied excitement of a fortysomething hippie, and the impersonators of Jagger and Richards sometimes look a little like the real thing, in the right shadows, at certain angles. Hendrix is only cited.
The movie presents the surfaces of Obermaier's life but never lets us understand who she was. Avelon has a face for the role that is maddeningly unrevealing; sometimes she pouts, sometimes she's happy, sometimes she's pensive, sometimes she's out to lunch. As Rainer Langhans, the real-life leader of a Berlin commune, Matthias Schweighofer reflects a quality I noticed in a few '60s leftist radicals I knew: He's like a strict, scolding mother, lecturing those in his charge to correct their flawed ideas. That he and Uschi are "in love" is, I think, an ideological decision. He's not comfortable with her celebrity and she's not happy to be lectured at. Though her modeling is accepted by the commune as a source of funds, they don't think she's really sincere in her worship of the cause, nor is she.