Body of Evidence
- Madonna as Rebecca Carlson
- Willem Dafoe as Frank Dulaney
- Joe Mantegna as Robert Garrett
- Anne Archer as Joanne Braslow
- Julianne Moore as Sharon Dulaney
- Jürgen Prochnow as Dr Alan Paley
It was meant to be an erotic thriller with an added dash of courtroom drama but from watching the critically derided box office bomb that is Body of Evidence, it becomes abundantly clear that is neither erotic or thrilling. With Madonna in a weak performance and the talents of good actors wasted, Body of Evidence represents what can only be described as a train wreck of a film.
In Portland, Oregon, a wealthy old man by the name of Andrew Marsh has been found dead after suffering a fatal heart attack while restrained to his bed with handcuffs. At the time of death he was watching a home movie and the police believe that the girl in the film, Rebecca Carlson, a beautiful art gallery owner and Andrew’s much younger lover is connected in some way to the death of him. Rebecca is arrested and put on trial, where her adventurous and unusual sex life is brought up as a means for her to kill her elderly lover. Representing her is Frank Dulaney, who tries everything he can to clear Rebecca’s name and counteract everything said by the opposition of Robert Garrett, the ambitious defense attorney on the trial. Garrett believes that Rebecca used her seductive charms and vigorous bedroom activities to murder Andrew, as the man had a debilitating heart condition and was set to leave his young lover $8 million in the event of his death. Yet as the trial goes on, the married Frank becomes increasingly entranced by Rebecca and throws professionalism out the window to pursue a torrid and unusual love affair with his client. Rebecca dominates Frank with her sadomasochistic tendencies in the bedroom and firmly sets herself up as the one in charge in the strange game of pleasure and pain that she plays. But sooner or later, Frank is left questioning whether or not this seductive woman was capable of cold-blooded murder with the use of her more than sensual body and is he really defending as well as sleeping with an avaricious lust murderer?
The whole set up of Body of Evidence just seems so ridiculous and one can’t take it seriously. The film itself tries to be serious in the court room scenes and surprising with attempted red herrings but it just ends up being completely laughable. Director Uli Edel tries to take the material seriously and does give the movie some good visuals such as billowing MTV see through curtains, candles flickering and sinister shadows, but even that can’t save this movie from inevitable disaster. The score manages to give the film some of the eroticism it sorely lacks with twinkling percussion and seductive guitar forming the backbone. Those two points about the visuals and the music are two of the only things that I can think of that can be praised in this weak film. Marketed as an erotic thriller, Body of Evidence falls short in both departments. The sex scenes between Rebecca and Frank are supposed to be eye-opening and titillating, with the femme fatale Rebecca introducing her dark world of pain and pleasure to the wide-eyed Frank, but the scenes( including the use of candle wax, restraints and an unusual encounter in a parking lot) end up feeling boring and not all erotic in the slightest. The writer tries to incorporate thrills into the story and make us guess whether Rebecca is guilty or not, but with the weak script we really don’t end up caring about whether Rebecca committed the crime.
Chief among the problems of Body of Evidence is the decision to cast pop superstar Madonna in the lead role. She’s never going to go down as the best actress in history, but at least in past movies such as Desperately Seeking Susan and A League of Their Own she was watchable enough and wasn’t a complete disaster. Here her delivery of lines is stilted and unconvincing as her character is accused of using her sex life to kill her old lover. Everyone knows that Madonna can be sexy( hell if anyone knows that sex sells, it has to be Madonna), but that is all she brings to the part and nothing else. Willem Dafoe is wasted as Rebecca’s lawyer Frank, who enters into an illicit relationship with her. Joe Mantegna and Anne Archer don’t fare much better in their poorly written roles as district attorney and secretary for the deceased. And Julianne Moore is just wasted here as Frank’s wronged wife and it really is a shame to see one of my favourite actresses having to slum it with this weak film. Even an appearance from Jürgen Prochnow as an unreliable witness in the case can’t bring anything that great to this mess of a movie.
Unconvincing and not remotely as thrilling or sexy as it wanted to be, Body of Evidence is a weak film that seemed destined for the critical drubbing it received and with good reason.