We start things off with Taylor passed out on the ground somewhere, at sunrise, with what looks like a violated roll of toilet paper near her head, so things already look very exciting. Taylor awakens from her impromptu slumber and we learn a couple of things: one, she’s been napping among the debris from a probable outdoor concert, and two, she kind of looks like Gwyneth Paltrow when she was going through that “there’s no such thing as too much mascara” phase.
As Taylor arises from her near-death experience and shakes he her head so we can better study her Avril Lavigne tribute-hairdo, she starts getting flashbacks to the evil concert where people apparently left her behind as a parting gift for the cleaning staff. We don’t learn much from the jump-cut footage (it’s night, and happy people are bouncing to a beat) so Taylor decides she would understand things better if she stood up. So she does, in a slow, tortured way, because Taylor is an artist and realizes that things are more emotional if you do them slowly.
Speaking of artistry, Taylor has decided to do a nice voice-over before we rush into the actual song, some spoken-word poetry about the end of a relationship, poorly-considered choices, how blame should be shared because that makes better song lyrics, and the benefits of having extremely straight hair. While she does this, we get more flashes from her past, a “kaleidoscope of memories”, about meeting her latest beau and the various points at which she should have just changed the channel or read a book instead.
Apparently she met this man (we’ll call him Dex) while she and several girls were standing around in some dive of a place where people work on cars with questionable ownership papers. (Red flag number one, right?) Taylor lets us know that Dex had bad mojo from the first glimpse she had of him impersonating one of Johnny Depp’s movie roles, but that she just couldn’t help herself once he glanced her way. (Red flag number two: Just because someone looks at you doesn’t mean that you should sleep with him. He might just be needing directions to his parole officer’s house.)
Taylor continues with her voice-over for quite some time (something else that Gwyneth Paltrow thinks there can’t be too much of, especially in her movies), letting us know that Dex really won her heart, she just didn’t know about some of the unsavory side effects of that victory. (This is accompanied by images of Dex standing up in a car when he should be driving it, recreating adrenaline-fueled moments from the Rocky movies while Taylor looks on, both terrified and horny.)
Then we have a questionable bit where Taylor blames the devil for arranging that she should manage to hook up with a naughty-boy angel. I’m no religious expert, but I seriously doubt that Beelzebub had anything to do with you playing fast and furious with Johnny Depp’s stand-in. Hormones and self-validation and the never-can-rule-out possibility of daddy issues? We can leave those on the blame checklist, but I think we can let Satan have a timeout on this one. He’s got bigger fish to fry, like making sure that Republicans keep inexplicably winning elections.
Anyway, the song proper finally kicks in around the two-minute mark, and we’re back to images of Taylor and Dex having a real festive time playing around on train tracks (red flag three), eating lunch at places where apparently something on the menu makes them scream with laughter and annoy everyone around them, more of Dex holding the car steering wheel with his knees while Taylor both gasps and tingles in her special places, some kissing, some sharing of hats, and romantic moments on the iron balconies of unnamed apartments in the meat-packing district.
Meanwhile, Morning-After Taylor is still wandering around the deserted concert venue, tripping over empty energy-drink cans and glow sticks and interestingly warbling the bit about “you found me” even though no one has or she still wouldn’t be there. Then we’re back to the couple in the few hours that they were happy together, with more bar-hopping, kissing while standing on diner tables, and some presumed sex in a seedy room where simply walking by the bed can result in an STD.
Oh, and we also have a separate montage of Taylor and her hair fretting about whether or not she’s doing the right thing, as they both stare into dirty mirrors and lean against dirty walls. She’s sensing “trouble, trouble, trouble” but it’s not clear if she’s referring to Johnny Dex, the fact that everywhere her beau takes her needs a good scrubbing, the fact that Dex would prefer to play his guitar despite her doing the splits in the air above the bed where he is laying and ignoring her (flag four), or the voice mail from her accountant questioning certain expenses at a tattoo parlor.
Then the couple is headed into a nightclub, and we know there’s going to be a misunderstanding because Taylor has brushed her hair and Dex hasn’t. Sure enough, while an unnamed band performs a song that is not on the soundtrack, Dex appears to get extremely violent with his dancing. I don’t believe anyone actually gets hurt, but couture has been damaged, and that’s even worse.
Another bit with Taylor and her hair singing to the dirty mirror, and then she and Dex are back in that seedy room where sex is no longer on the table, with both of them glaring at each other in that way of couples being mad but no one is saying anything so they get even madder. Taylor shows her dissatisfaction by curling up in a chair, looking despondent, and Dex shows his by taking off his shirt and flexing his pecs, looking pleased with his musculature but not much else.
Next up is another bar (Surprise! Flag five.), with Taylor and Dex wandering in, and everything is beautiful for roughly five seconds. Then Dex starts messing with some guys playing pool, guys you don’t want to mess with because both of them are bigger than apartments in New York City. Taylor tries to get him to knock it off, because she’s still got a few more rounds of the chorus to sing, but he doesn’t listen, and there’s an altercation involving shoving, messed-up hair, unhappiness, spilled beer, and a startling glimpse of Dex being bent over the pool table in an entry-level position. Oh?
But we don’t go there, instead we cut to Morning-After Taylor as she sings back at the abandoned concert where no one has bothered to check on her. I guess this stretch of the song is really powerful for her, because she’s flopping around on the ground and rending her hair. But she does get points for her ability to go from lying flat-out in the dirt to kneeling on her knees without using her hands. That girl has done some serious work with her inner core, kudos to her trainer, even if it does look kind of Lazarus-like. (“Behold, she has arisen from the rave grave!”)
Then we have more bits with Sad-Mirror Taylor, questioning her family values, followed by another visit with Morning-After Taylor, as she emotes in the Woodstock Ruins. By the way, was the big target-symbol on her t-shirt intentional (Needy person right here. Apply within.) or just one of those music-video wardrobe choices that we never understand?
I guess it doesn’t matter, because we cut to the concert that we’ll presume took place the night before Taylor awoke to toilet paper as her only companionship. Everyone’s having a swell time, because that’s the only time you can have when strobe-lights are involved and no one can actually see what you look like until it’s too late. During this surely drug-free experience, we have another montage of various people hooking up with people they perhaps shouldn’t pursue, but we really can’t tell who anybody is. Oh wait, yes we suddenly can tell, thanks to the light from either an exploding amp or the flare set off by someone who stupidly ordered the nachos and is trying to warn others. Dex’s tongue appears to be doing a geological study of a woman’s face, someone who clearly isn’t Taylor.
Taylor takes one look (okay, a very long look, to heighten the dramatic effect) at that mess and then runs off to sing to the dirty mirror again. Dex doesn’t run anywhere, content with where his tongue currently is and where it soon might be.
Then Taylor rushes out of the tawdry restroom and collapses on the ground, because you aren’t feeling any real pain unless you are inspired to drop to the earth like Scarlet O’Hara in Gone with the Windbag. We get a final montage of all the trouble in Taylor’s life (well, the main trouble, anyway), including a quick bit where we see Dex seeing that Taylor is face-down in the mosh pit, but he just grins and heads off to suck face with the next woman who might write a hit song about him. And pay his bills.
Final shot is of Morning-After Taylor ripping off the necklace that Dex presumably gave her during those thirty seconds when they were actually in love, and then she hurls the tainted jewelry to the ground, next to the ghost of Scarlet O’Hara, a burnt-out glow stick, and some tossed-aside bean dip that no one should ever eat.
White flag. Number one.
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