I thought it would be a hoot to watch this movie again, seeing as it’s a Joe Ezsterhas-written steamy erotic thriller starring Sharon Stone, both of them coming straight off of Basic Instinct, and trying to capitalize on its success. I remember that it was sold as basically Basic Instinct II at the time of its release, and was supposed to have some urban frisson of this kinky ultramodern skyscraper. I saw it on video after it came out and thought it was total crap, but was holding out hope that it might somehow turn out to be interesting upon review. No such luck, it is absolute garbage, which is not to say I didn’t enjoy it.
This is produced by the legendary Robert Evans, post drug-breakdown, during his bid to claw back to relevance. It is based on a novel by Ira Levin, of Rosemary’s Baby and the Stepford Wives, and although it was written around the time of the movie, there was a large gap between his famous run of books and this one, and this story bears the mustiness of having been conceived in the 70s and dusted off for the 90s. Mainly because the whole concept is voyeurism, which the movie treats as exciting and kinky as BDSM or something dirtier, and which never fails to feel resolutely unexciting. It makes the whole thing date back to the time of wife-swap key parties or such, when voyeurism might have struck a few sheltered people as kinky.
We have an intro in which a woman who is a ringer for Virginia Madsen greeted by a mysterious man on her skyscraper balcony—will they have erotic, steamy sex?—no, he pushes her off, and you watch a stuntwoman descend outside on clearly visible wires, waving her arms around, because that’s what people in freefall do. Next we meet Stone as Carly Singer, who moves into the very apartment the dead woman was in. There is supposed to be some frisson that she looks very much like the dead woman, and is in the same apartment. Maybe it worked in the book? She meets an older man who was friends with the dead woman, an arrogant author who had an affair with her, a female model who knew her, and William Baldwin, spoiled rich yuppie. Carly works in publishing, and I love the trope from the period that New York’s publishing world is a hotbed of steamy, kinky sex.
It’s nice to see Stone get to be vulnerable and not be all brassy and tough as nails. Baldwin proves himself to be even less of a viable leading man than you imagined, his pinched face looking like Macauley Culkin all growed up, and the idea that he is attractive in any way is just not viable. Plus, he seems like an overgrown child. She meets one person then another, flirts with this one, then that one, some sex scenes, spying on neighbors having sex [ooh, so kinky!] and soon you’re an hour in and nothing has happened. Like, nothing at all. The movie simply has no plot. Periodically, we see that someone is spying on all the people in the apartment building, which just can’t even raise the pulse now, and didn’t back then, either. This turns out to be the movie’s fatal flaw, as by the time a murder occurs again [they suddenly ramp up] it can’t seem like a threat, and none of the characters are interesting enough to become engagingly threatening.
There is mild fun throughout to be had for those who like to snicker at misguided entertainments like this, with an overinflated and misguided sense of its own importance, but the key howler for me was a section in which Baldwin insists, no, insists, that Carly accompany him to the building’s gym. Carly’s not sure she’s ready, and the whole thing is treated like the gym is an open swinger’s club, in which Carly must let go of her inhibitions and let her body free. But nothing can top the sequence in which Baldwin, laying forward on a bench, pumps his ass slowly, sensuously, in front of Carly, while poor, poor Sharon Stone has to stare at him open-mouthed in lust, as though she’s never before had these feelings awakened in her body. Both of the poor dears deserve some sort of special dispensation for having to go through this, and you know, fuck Baldwin, but Stone deserves better than that and I suspect a presidential letter of apology on behalf of America is in order. And—OMG I just remembered, I took a picture of my screen, because that moment had to be seen. That’s it, above.
Also amusing is a Carly’s assistant, trying to hit that then-popular stereotype of the babbling, less attractive but sex-obsessed secretary / best friend to the attractive character. The only interesting this about it is that the actress in the role is all wrong for it and is quite gamely barging forward to just make it work. Other than that, not much to see here, except just a terribly misguided, and just plain terrible movie, that can still bring amusement and delight to those with a certain sensibility. Don’t miss the ultra-abrupt, sudden, nonsensical ending, after a few other endings failed with test audiences, and the film entered let’s-just-release-it-and-be-done-with-it status. Anyway, if you love 90s erotic thrillers, this isn’t perfect, but it sure is something.