9 1/2 Weeks
- Kim Basinger as Elizabeth
- Mickey Rourke as John
It may have been savaged by critics upon release who saw it as nothing but a tawdry movie, but over time it is good to see that 9 1/2 Weeks has been reassessed and given a second chance. A film that touches on how addictive a union with someone can be and how it can push you over the edge, 9 1/2 Weeks masterfully casts a strange spell.
Elizabeth is an art gallery assistant who hasn’t been on a date or had a relationship since her divorce; a fact her friends seem to always remind her of. One day while out shopping, her eyes meet with suave Wall Street broker John and an immediate fire is lit. She sees him as mysterious and he slowly gains her trust, despite being a stranger, by whisking her off her feet with romantic gestures. From the start of the intense relationship, John’s preference to take charge when it comes to sex hints at the danger he’ll bring to Elizabeth, but she sees him as loving and exciting. As the union becomes bolder and the sexual games get more perverse, Elizabeth finds herself completely obsessed by John but wanting to escape his clutches. Something within her won’t let him go and as John begins to take charge of everything, she heads down a downward spiral due to John’s hypnotizing influence that threatens to engulf her if she doesn’t break free.
I have to give a lot of credit to Adrian Lyne for the way he shoots this movie and brings the strange nature of obsession to the screen. Capturing scenes in a soft focus glow and glossy finish, events seem sexy and erotic in the beginning before morphing into something unusual and uncomfortable. Lyne knows exactly how to bring erotic fire to proceedings, but as time goes by bring forth the disturbing nature of John’s dominance over Elizabeth. It must be said that while many of the scenes are graphic in terms of sexual content( for instance John using the contents of a fridge and feeding Elizabeth for satisfaction), everything takes on a different tone once John reveals his desire to be the one in control. You can feel a palpable danger growing within the film as Elizabeth becomes completely obsessed with the suave but menacing John and goes almost past the point of telling what is right and wrong, heading straight for disaster. I think critics at the time might have missed this sense of disturbing atmosphere by instead focusing on the sex scenes. Yes 9 1/2 Weeks has a lot of sex that at the start is sensual, but takes a darker turn as the relationship takes a different turn. Upon closer inspection, 9 1/2 Weeks paints a dark picture of brutal obsession and carnal desire that puts us in the shoes of Elizabeth, who knows something isn’t right but can’t walk away from the relationship that she has succumbed to. Now the movie isn’t flawless by any means; it runs a bit too long and some of the dialogue is a bit tin-eared. But even with these flaws, the film captures the attention as an unusual parable about not getting swept into something you may not be able to get out of. A well-chosen soundtrack of songs about passion and dark intensity fits 9 1/2 Weeks like a glove and furthers the heightened feelings of looming darkness that can be found in the encounters between John and Elizabeth.
A film such as 9 1/2 Weeks is can be made or broken by the casting of the leads, thankfully the two leads put it in the former category. Kim Basinger is utterly believable as the spellbound Elizabeth; presenting her as passionate yet slowly seeing the dangerous ruin the relationship could bring as she heads towards mental breakdown. We feel for the character and a lot of that is down to the excellent work from Kim Basinger. Mickey Rourke is just as good as the suave and very dangerous John, who ensnares Elizabeth in his perverse games of sexual pleasure. The best way I can think of to describe Mickey Rourke’s performance is similar to the snake in the Garden of Eden; he knows exactly what to say to be cunning and lure Basinger’s Eve like character in. Both leads have good chemistry, though it has an underlying darkness not often present with most movie couple’s chemistry and this sets it apart from many other movies.
An unusual film that is by turns erotic and disturbing, 9 1/2 is one of those movies that knows how to crawl deep under the skin with its story of a perilous sexual relationship.