Caught in a Bad Romance: “9 1/2 Weeks”

So remember how my first impression of 9 ½ Weeks was that it was going to be a sexy, wonderful movie? Well, I wasn’t too wrong. I just missed the part where it was incredibly painful to watch.

The fact that 9 ½ Weeks was directed by Adrian Lyne, famous (infamous?) director of Fatal Attraction, probably should have tipped me off right away that this movie was going to be no sexy, but happy, walk-in-the-park romance. But it didn’t, and I began the movie, blissfully unaware of what awaited me.

9 ½ Weeks follows a recently-divorced New York art gallery assistant, Elizabeth, played by Kim Basinger. Though we never really get the full backstory, you get the feeling her divorce wasn’t only recent, but that it wasn’t pretty, either—then again, what divorce is?
Though her divorce hurt her deeply, Elizabeth is tired of being alone. So when she makes eye contact in—appropriately, for those of you who know your Shakespeare—a fishmonger’s shop with the young, handsome John, played by the not-yet-disfigured Mickey Rourke, something in her stirs to life. But before she can say anything to him, he leaves the shop, presumably never to be seen again.

But there wouldn’t be a movie if he didn’t show up again, now would there?

A few days later, Elizabeth runs into him at an antiques flea market, and things…progress…from there.

(Ladies, here’s a tip: When a man you don’t know buys you a three hundred dollar scarf, you know you’re about to be a kept woman.)

Elizabeth and John’s relationship is brutal from the outset. Though they do not sleep together the same day they meet in the flea market, John does take Elizabeth to a small cabin close to the water. There, he tells her that they are totally alone. No one could hear her, even if she called out. Elizabeth becomes (understandably) frightened, and asks to leave. John assures her he was only kidding, but you get a rather uncomfortable, queasy feeling that he really wasn’t.

When they do get around to doing the deed, it is an erotic, sadomasochistic spectacle. John and Elizabeth experiment with everything, from food play to cross-dressing to humiliation and violence. Predictably, it is John who suggests and initiates everything, since Elizabeth is, as we realize through her actions and reactions, a novice in this particular sexual field. Elizabeth becomes more and more disconnected from her professional life, and is often distracted at work. She begins to look wilder and more disheveled, and her friends begin to notice the change in her.

But, aside from a brief scene that establishes him as a successful, wealthy man of Wall Street, we have no idea what John’s life is like outside his sexual encounters with Elizabeth. And that’s what makes him so darn creepy. You see, all we get of him is the side that comes out during sex play with Elizabeth, which is to say we see him as a cold, domineering son-of-a-bitch who gets off on hurting Elizabeth emotionally. The little he reveals about himself—that he’s had many other women, hinting that he treats them all in much the same way—only reinforces this image.

So it’s kind of weird when Elizabeth falls in love with John—and he with her.

(Or so he says.)

Rourke is excellent in his role as, well, an unfeeling asshole. Yes, he is extremely attractive, but he also gives off a very unsettling air. And this doesn’t just have to do with what we see on screen during the sex scenes between him and Basinger. Something about the way Rourke carries himself, and the way he looks at Basinger with guarded, but hungry eyes, makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck. It’s truly creepy—yet you can’t help but see how Basinger’s character is attracted to him, because he also exudes the promise of excitement, and something more and different.
Basinger plays a bit more of a three-dimensional character, but this is not to say she is necessarily any easier to read than Rourke. Yes, she is much more vocal about her feelings during the dialogue of the film, but, oftentimes, one of the only ways we understand what she is really feeling is during sex play, and only then through her physical cues. And because her words sometimes do not match her actions, Basinger’s Elizabeth is as almost as unreliable a source of truth as Rourke’s character. Basinger plays her role beautifully, and though we do get more of Elizabeth’s backstory, we get only slightly more of her inner self than of John’s. Much like Rourke’s eyes, Basinger’s facial expressions are guarded; but, unlike Rourke, every now and then, she allows emotion to surface in her eyes—but only for a few seconds.

The film itself is primarily composed of John and Elizabeth’s various sexual encounters, and doesn’t actually have much of a plot outside the sex. But that’s the point of the film. The action does not and should not revolve around the characters’ lives outside their sex play. The point of this film is to show the dirty (in the worst sense of the word) side of romantic involvement. And it does this excellently. By the time the film ends, all you want to do is watch a Disney movie, and pretend that there is such a thing as a happy ending for everyone, and that love and pain don’t ever actually go together. But don’t be fooled. Sure, Elizabeth and John “love” each other—but why? In the end, it is all about the emotion. They are both in need of feeling. And isn’t it better, says the film, to hurt than not to feel at all?

(I am now going to go watch Mulan.)

Yours always,

Film Bitch


Step right up! It’s Monday Madness!

Happy (?) Monday!

Before I start:
I’m still fighting with the links! As I said before, WordPress keeps adding quotation marks to the end of a few URLs; thus, some of the hyperlinks don’t work unless you physically delete the quotation mark at the end of the URL. I’m really, really sorry about this, and will try to have my more Internet-savvy friend help me work out the kinks.

But onto the news!

Oil!? We don’t need no stinkin’ oil!

Obama set off today on yet another trip to areas of the US affected by the BP oil disaster. Only this time, he didn’t go to Louisiana—Alabama, Mississippi and Florida have become the states to be most recently directly affected by the disaster.

Obama will be using his first Oval Office address to talk about the disaster, and “use the disaster as a springboard for pushing Congress to pass comprehensive energy and climate change legislation that includes a crackdown on the oil industry.”

Uh, okay. That’s all well and good, and I certainly support this particular policy move, but wasn’t he just spouting plans to drill for oil barely three months ago? And didn’t he put a comprehensive climate and energy policy on the back burner in favor of the absolutely incorrectly-named “clean energy”?

(Believe it or not, sir, there is no such thing as “clean coal.” Trufax.)

Clearly, what we have is a case of a wibbly president. I can’t tell where he stands anymore. During his campaign, Obama ran on a green platform; then, a little over a year into his term, he announces that he wants to focus on “clean” energy, and drill for oil. But after a massive oil disaster occurs, he backpedals, brands the oil companies as “evil,” and imposes hefty fines on BP.

Hate to break it to you, Mr. President, but who did you think would be in charge of your drilling operation you proposed back in late March, early April?

(If you guessed, “oil companies,” you’d be right! Where’s Vanna White when we need her?)

If Obama’s indecisive nature weren’t bad enough, BP, as it turns out, isn’t being entirely candid about the oil spill. For a company that’s responsible for the biggest environmental disaster in US history, you think they’d want to avoid as much trouble as possible, right?

Guess not.

The above article mentions several shady-sounding incidents involving the media and BP officials. For instance, when a federally-approved CNN camera crew tried to interview workers from the Louisiana State Animal Response Team who were volunteering to help clean animals soaked in oil from the spill, a man from the LASRT turned them away, saying, “I make the final call.” Yet BP maintains that it is utterly open about the issue, and that such incidents are anomalies and shouldn’t be taken as representative of the whole.

But, as the article points out, BP failed to release tapes of the oil actually spilling out into the water until late May, at the behest of Massachusetts Representative Ed Markey; and only after the tapes were released did the scientists realize BP was severely underestimating the amount of oil flowing into the Gulf.

Suspicious? I think so.

In a bit of good news concerning the spill, though:
According to this Business Week article, BP may lose its US contracts and leases after the spill is cleaned up. Interestingly enough, though the spill is undoubtedly BP’s greatest crime, there have been other incidents in the past, such as the explosion in 2005 of a BP oil refinery in Texas in which fifteen people were killed, as well as a pipeline leak that released over two hundred thousand barrels of crude oil into Prudhoe Bay, Alaska in 2006.

What bothers me is that the government did not see the need to take BP to task over these two incidents, even though they occurred within a year of each other. Admittedly, the accidents happened during the Bush, Jr. administration, so I’m not all that surprised. But why wasn’t there a greater outcry from the American public? Why didn’t we push harder against our dependence on oil?

I am happy BP is paying the price. But isn’t it time we actually sober up and take initiative ourselves? As I mentioned above, I believe, at this particular point in time, Obama is too wishy-washy to trust. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if he ended up drilling along the coast in a year or so. I know it’s hard to believe that one person can make a difference, and, yeah, if it really only were one average Joe who cared about the situation, I could understand that view. It would be like screaming at the top of your lungs at a rock concert. One person can’t be heard. But think of how much noise we can make if we all scream together.

One nation, divisible

Arizona recently enacted a strict immigration law that essentially discriminates against everyone who’s not Caucasian. Now, I don’t actually disagree with the idea behind the bill itself, which is to identify and deport illegal immigrants. Many jobs that could be held by currently-unemployed American citizens are being held by illegal immigrants, not to mention the fact that many of the immigrants who are employed are being exploited and abused, but can’t actually go to the authorities about it, as their illegal status would be exposed. But that does not mean that the way Arizona governor Jan Brewer is going about enforcing the bill the right way. Essentially, the bill says that anyone who looks Hispanic and has “shifty eyes” can be questioned by the police. I’m not kidding.

Since enacting the bill, Brewer’s approval ratings have skyrocketed overnight. And apparently, she thinks this means it’s okay to take the routing to the next level: Targeting the children of illegal immigrants. Oh, and, just so you know, the “official” term for the child of an illegal immigrant is an “anchor baby.”

Wow. Let’s just break out the KKK while we’re at it.

The new bill would deny birth certificates to any children born to illegal immigrants, making it impossible for an illegal family to put down roots in the United States. As I said, I am all for a crackdown on illegal immigration; but I take issue with targeting the children, too. For one, it’s actually unconstitutional. If a child is born on American soil, it is an American citizen. No contest. Take a look at the 14th Amendment if you don’t believe me. Secondly, these are children. They have no control over whether they are here or not; it’s their parents who have come here illegally. So denying a child his Constitutional right for something that’s not his fault in the first place does not sit well with me.

Not only that, as many have been quick to point out, legal Hispanics no longer feel secure in their own neighbourhoods. Many feel as though they are the subjects of heightened suspicion and mistrust. This creates communal divides—and I shouldn’t have to say this, but, given all the other problems we have right now, the last thing the United States needs is the public’s distrust of one another. We need to be a unified nation, not a divided one—but Arizona’s new law is doing everything in its power to make sure we are as divided as can be.

(As a side note: Brewer looks kind of like The Mummy. That alone should spell trouble.)

I’ve decided to only post two news items today, as the first one was rather long, and I need to get some more work done for Ivory, as well as run to the library to get the next film I plan on reviewing: 9 ½ Weeks, starring the lovely Kim Basinger and the as-of-yet-not-disfigured Mickey Rourke. If you haven’t seen the (what I am hoping to be ) good, inevitable sexiness that will ensue, check out this YouTube video.
(Warning: The last few seconds are slightly NSFW. As in, you see Kim’s rather shapely behind.)

Will I rip it to shreds? Will I love it? Stay tuned!


Film Bitch