9 1/2 Weeks

Two things: 1. This movie is absolutely garbage. 2. I totally understand why it was a big hit when it came out, nearly doubling it's budget in theaters.

Let's start with point number one. This movie is about a female art gallery dealer played by Kim Basinger who has a torrid affair with a stockbroker played by Mickey Rourke, and their romance is red hot when Rourke is behaving himself, but his need to play power games with her is constantly pushing her away. With a plot that thin the execution is going to be very important, and a lot of the artistic choices made in this film are suspect. For one, Kim Basinger's eyebrows barely exist, giving her a weird look whenever she isn't in silhouette; she seems super 80's in a bad way. Mickey Rourke is always quiet-talking, which makes him sound like a creep; I know that's a trick that Wall Street types have to exert control over people. The sexual politics are problematic because this film doesn't seem to recognize when he's exerting control over her as part of consensual sex games and when he's actually just forcefully dominating her against her will. Finally, a lot of the sex scenes that are meant to be erotic just aren't - when he plays Billie Holiday's anti-lynching ballad "Strange Fruit" for her on their first date it was more baffling than mood setting.

That said, it's obvious why people would have enjoyed this movie. Kim Basinger's eyebrows might be weird, but that's not the first place you would look during the film's many sex scenes, especially given how close cropped a lot of the body shots are. (It also helps that several of their scenes are shot in darkness; at one point they have sex in an alley while water is pouring down, which must have been a bitch to film.) While Rourke's controlling act doesn't work for me - I found all the "I'm a rich stockbroker and I'm going to buy you gifts so I can more easily manipulate your emotions" shtick to be smarmy - I can see why that would be someone else's fantasy.  Also, the fact that the power struggle might actually be part of the appeal: even today some of Rourke's antics feel taboo.

(Although I could find a rebuttal for my first three objections I have no rebuttal for the "Strange Fruit" thing. I don't think I'll ever understand that.)

Ultimately, I think this movie holds up just as much as any piece of erotica from the past holds up: if it speaks to what you're into then you'll like it; if it doesn't speak to your sexual fantasies then there probably isn't enough character or plot development to keep your attention. But even if you are weirded out by a Wolf of Wall Street style douchebag mentally and physically manipulating a woman in ways she isn't entirely comfortable with, you have to admit: Basinger and Rourke were hot back in the day. As long as erotica has hot people in it, it's always going to have some appeal, even if it is kind of garbage.

Winner: The Cat

9 1/2 Weeks on IMDB