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9 1/2 Weeks
USA 1986
Directed by Adrian Lyne
Running time 110 minutes
Rated R

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars


In 9 1/2 Weeks style triumphs over substance. Not that it is much of a win.

The film, with Kim Basinger as an assistant in a Soho art gallery and Mickey Rourke as a Manhattan commodities broker is as much about the zeitgeist of '80s New York as it is about the characters. Lyne gives as much attention to the environments in which their relationship plays out as to the relationship itself. The latter is entirely built around their sexual relationship which is driven by Rourke’s taste for psychological and physical sadism.

Based on a best-selling novel by Elizabeth McNeill, the realisation is one we are very familiar with from French films  - akin to soft-core porn that borders on kitsch (Basinger’s strip to Joe Cocker’s “You Can Keep Your Hat On” is cringe-worthy in this respect). Although Rourke is mis-cast, his working class persona ill-matching his supposed stock-broking character, he does a good job as the alpha male who exerts a hold over his psychologically vulnerable prey. Equally one can’t imagine that Basinger these days would be particular proud of her sex-kitten scenes but she does flesh out the fantasy and turns in a convincing job with the material the script allows her.

If the film overplays its stylistic hand it is of interest for its depiction of sexual game-playing (Nic Roeg’s Bad Timing, 1980,  was a much more credible treatment of similar material) and the broader implications of the relationship as it is in turn emblematic of the relationship between money and the distribution of power between the sexes in Western capitalist society.

If only Lyne hadn't subsumed so much of it under MTV-grade aesthetics this could have been a much more satisfying film.

 

 

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