Tag Archives: Adrian Lyne

9 1/2 Weeks (1986)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: A sexually charged relationship.

Elizabeth (Kim Basinger), a curator at a New York art gallery and recently divorced, meets John (Mickey Rorke) one day while shopping at a seafood place. Elizabeth is turned-on by John’s mysterious aura and they commence into having a torrid sexual affair that turns kinky, but eventually she becomes burnt-out by it and finds that besides the sex there is very little that they have in common.

The film is based on the novel of the same name written by Ingeborg Day under the pseudonym of Elizabeth MacNeil, which in turn was based on actual events that occurred to her when she was kept a virtual prisoner in her lover’s home for a period of two and a half months. The movie tones down the prisoner aspect and concentrates more on the erotic one, but the result is a confusing story that meanders without saying much of anything. The film was shelved for over two years because it kept getting bad responses from test audiences and constantly sent back to the studio for re-editing. When it was finally released it bombed badly at the box office.

The sexual aspect is tame and in these jaded times may even be considered laughable. The kink relies mainly on the use of blind folds and food items with the sex done from a feminine viewpoint that might arouse women, but unlikely to do the same for a man. The sexual games, as tepid as they are, get portrayed as being empowering to Elizabeth and something that allows her to release her ‘inner freak’, but I kept wondering what was John supposed to be getting out of all of this while she cavorts around naked or sucks provocatively on various food items. Maybe he was a voyeur that simply enjoyed watching and if so then it should’ve been made clearer because he comes off as nothing more than a transparent bystander otherwise.

We learn nothing about Elizabeth as the film progresses and her constantly giggly, screechy behavior makes her seem more like an immature schoolgirl and not a sophisticated, educated Manhattanite in her mid-30’s. She’s also too passive and easily manipulated without any reason given for why this is. Basinger’s performance is dull with a stunt double used during most of the sex scenes. Margaret Whitton who plays her best friend would’ve been far better in Basinger’s role because at least she shows some spunk and seemed genuinely human while Basinger is more like a zombie.

For a film with such strong erotic overtones there is surprisingly very little of it to see. The sex scenes show up in bits and pieces and then last for only a few minutes. In-between there’s long meandering segments that has nothing to do with the central theme and isn’t particularly interesting. The most memorable moment involves a conversation between Rourke and a bedding saleswoman (Justine Johnston) and even here things get botched because in one shot Rourke inadvertently knocks a vase off of a back shelf when he hops onto a bed in a showroom and then in the very next shot that same vase has magically gotten placed back.

I enjoyed the way director Adrian Lyne frames his shots as well as his color compositions and the provocative concept has a tantalizing quality, but Lyne seems confused about exactly what kind of message he wants to make with it and I think he was hoping that it would somehow manifest itself as the film progressed, but it never does. Bitter Moon, a film that came out 6 years later and had roughly the same idea, is far more impactful and worth your time in seeking out.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: February 21, 1986

Runtime: 1Hour 57Minutes (Director’s Cut)

Rated R

Director: Adrian Lyne

Studio: MGM

Available: DVD, Amazon Video, YouTube

Foxes (1980)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Growing up too fast.

Four teenagers living in the San Fernando Valley face life in the fast lane. Madge (Marilyn Kagan) is the nerd who’s having a fling with a 30-year-old man (Randy Quaid). Deidre (Kandice Stroh) shifts from boyfriend to boyfriend while Annie (Cherrie Currie) is tormented by an abusive father and runs away from home only to get caught up in the drug scene. Jeanie (Jodie Foster) is the mature one of the bunch who tries to keep them from getting into too much trouble as well as getting them out of a jam when needed, but she has struggles of her own particularly dealing with her mother (Sally Kellerman) who brings home men who are virtual strangers to spend the night with and seems as lost and confused as Jeanie’s teen friends.

This marked Adrian Lyne’s feature film debut and from a purely cinematic perspective it’s intriguing. I liked the cinema vertite feel and in many ways this is an early forerunner to Larry Clarke’s groundbreaking Kids that came out 15 years later as the camera follows the teens around on their excursions without having any connected storyline nor does it try to make any moral judgement on what occurs. Instead it plays more like docudrama showing how things are without overdoing the shock value, but what I liked best was the fact that it portrays the adults as being just as screwed up and in certain ways even more lost while society at large is captured as being equally jaded to the point that the teens are simply reflecting the behaviors of the environment around them.

Probably the most surprising aspect is the part dealing with Madge, who is still in high school, having an ongoing relationship with a 30-year-old man, which the film treats as being no big deal. It’s not completely clear if Madge is 17 or 18, but many of today’s viewers will find the casual way the film approaches this topic, which includes an eventual wedding between the two that is happily attended by her friends, as being  ‘creepy’ and most likely a taboo storyline for any film made today.

The irony is that Madge ends up causing the most destruction in the relationship as Quaid’s character unwisely goes away on a business trip and allows her complete use of his place where she then decides to hold a party that gets expectedly out-of-control. It even includes a graphic fight breaking out that is portrayed quite brutally including having a girl hit and knocked down by another guy. This scene also features Laura Dern, in her first credited film role and wearing braces and glasses, as an awkward teen that crashes the place.

The casting of Foster and Scott Baio as her guy friend is interesting as the two had starred in quirky gangster comedy Bugsy Malone just 4 years earlier and the scene where the two have an ongoing conversation while walking around in a large, open junkyard is one of the best parts of the movie. Baio is initially fun as this geeky teen with limited social skills, but later on becomes this mini-hero on a skateboard that gets too cute and Hollywood-like. Foster on the other hand is solid and it’s interesting seeing her playing a more emotionally vulnerable character and even at one point breaking down and crying.

The film manages to have a few interesting scenes here and there, but it takes too long to build any momentum and it’s never as compelling as it would like to be. There are also a few too many moments where it defaults to the contrived clichés, which hurts its efforts at gritty realism.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: February 29, 1980

Runtime: 1Hour 46Minutes

Rated R

Director: Adrian Lyne

Studio: United Artists

Available: DVD, Blu-ray

Flashdance (1983)

flashdance 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Dancing is her passion.

Alex Owens (Jennifer Beals) is a young lady of 19 who works as a welder during the day, but moonlights as an exotic dancer by night. She dreams of one day joining the dance institute and train to work in the professional ballet, but when she goes to their admissions desk they demand that she show some proof of prior training, which she doesn’t have and this is enough to intimidate her from applying at all.  She eventually starts up a relationship with Nick (Michael Nouri) who is the owner of the factory where she works. He uses his money and influence to pull-some-strings at the dance conservatory so that she’ll be able to get an audition, but she resents his help and threatens to not only pull out of their relationship because of it, but her audition as well.

The film is loosely based on the real-life story of Maureen Marder and the plot is relatable to anyone who dreams of one day rising above their humble beginnings, which is what makes the film interesting. Beals does well in the title role and has a very appealing face, but I was surprised how little dancing there actually was. Out of the whole runtime there are only three dance routines that the Beal character does, which was a shame as the routines are well staged, have a lot of energy and creativity and the most unique part about the film while its contrived romantic angle is  a complete bore.

The Alex character has issues as well as she comes off as too much of a mish-mash of different extremes making her more like a caricature than a real person. I realize human beings can be a bag of contradictions, but this character takes it too far. The biggest one is when she goes every week to confession even though she doesn’t behave at all like she is a religious person in any other way. I would think a devoutly Catholic individual wouldn’t feel as relaxed about getting on stage and gyrating her body let alone stripping off her clothes the minute she brings her new boyfriend back to her place, going to bed with him on their first date and even aggressively flirting with him at a restaurant.  In either case the confession scene was unnecessary because all it does is have the character verbally explain what the viewer has already been able to pick-up on visually.

The character is also highly volatile in ways that could easily get her pegged as being a borderline psycho these days. First she throws a rock through her boyfriend’s window when she thinks he is seeing another woman, then she jumps out of a moving car in the middle of a tunnel that could’ve caused a major traffic accident and then tops it all off by rushing onstage to drag her friend Jeanie (Sunny Johnson) off at a strip club and then callously throwing the dollars that Jeanie had earned into a puddle of water all because she consider herself to be a ‘good friend’, which brings up another point; why does this character consider stripping to be so ‘sleazy’ while being an exotic dancer is ‘respectable’? Granted she doesn’t take her clothes off as an exotic dancer, but the outfits she wears are quite revealing and the dance numbers are so sexually tinged that in my opinion there wasn’t that much of a difference.

I was also surprised how the male characters at her factory job seemed to treat her as being ‘just-one-of-the-guys’ as this was a highly attractive single woman making me believe that a lot of the guys would be hitting on her besides just the owner. I would also expect that she would be sexually harassed at the work place by some of them since she spends her evenings playing into their fantasies with her sexy dancing and the fact that the film fails to tackle this subject even briefly makes it poorly thought-out.

Overall though I found it to be an enjoyable watch and I think this was mainly due to Adrian Lyne’s direction and his use of lighting that made each shot seem like a visual design and his ability to photograph the grimy, steel mill setting in a way that made it seem artsy and evocative as well as the film’s rousing dance number at the end that despite its cheesy nature is still inspiring and fun.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: April 15, 1983

Runtime: 1Hour 34Minutes

Rated R

Director: Adrian Lyne

Studio: Paramount

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube