From the Vault: Nine 1/2 Weeks Gets 8 1/2 Stars

June 3, 2009 at 4:53 pm Leave a comment

Three years after I was born, Adrian Lyne (Unfaithful, Indecent Proposal, Fatal Attraction) directed Nine 1/2 Weeks, starring Kim Basinger and Mickey Rourke. I saw it for the first time this weekend and felt puzzled by the film’s poor critical reception. Lyne manages to forge a balance between art and sex, creating an erotically-charged drama rather than soft core porn. The film is a meditation on the ambiguities and limitations of consensual liaisons between women and men.

Elizabeth (Basinger), a “divorced white female, beautiful statuesque blonde,” meets John (Rourke) while shopping for dinner party fare.  John is concomitantly creepy and desirable as he makes overt sexual advances toward Elizabeth. “You’re taking a hell of a lot for granted, aren’t you,” Elizabeth remarks as John pointedly changes the bedsheets after their first outing. And thus begins a 9 1/2 week sexual journey. Elizabeth’s endearing naiveté complements John’s carnal authoritativeness. Scenes of sadomasochism, female masturbation, spontaneous lovemaking, and erotic food usage ensue. Lyne’s images at once titillate and disturb as the couple crisscrosses sexual boundaries and societal norms.

In her early 30s at the time of the film’s production, Basinger is, in retrospect, living proof that some women are like wine; they improve with age. While undoubtedly attractive, Basinger’s Renée Zellweger-like poutiness in this film pales in comparison to her fetching sophistication in L.A. Confidential and The Door in the Floor (both filmed over a decade later). Rourke, on the other hand, has endured a transformation in the opposite direction. The intensive reconstructive surgery he underwent after his professional wrestling career has rendered his once-alluring face almost unrecognizable. That said, he still has the body of an Olympian and acting talent that ranks him among the very best. His portrayal of John in Nine 1/2 Weeks made me further appreciate his wide range as an actor, as evidenced in Body Heat, Sin City, and The Wrestler.

If nothing else, this film depicts two major actors at pivotal moments in their respective careers. Beyond that, the disquieting interactions between Elizabeth and John speak to the complications of human nature and the overwhelming responsibility that accompanies sexual desire.

Entry filed under: Pop Culture, Rave Review, Sexuality. Tags: , , , , , , , .

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