Here I am, thirty years late, the last person in the country to watch Basic Instinct. I watched because it’s A Paul Verhoeven Film and on all the best-movies-of-whatever lists, but then, impressed by the degree of nudity in this I decided movies need more nudity and sought out more naked 90’s films. Unlike the others, this would seem to have little rewatch value – it’s kind of a brown/grey cop procedural. Some noirish aspects, Michael Douglas smart enough to draw connections but never the big ones, surrounded by smarter women who are playing him.
After Mr. Boz is killed with an icepick, Douglas and partner Gus question Boz’s girlfriend Sharon Stone, who got rich writing novels about icepick murders. Either she committed the dumbest murder, or one of the other psycho women in this movie is framing her – Stone’s hottie friend Roxy, or the police psychiatrist both investigating and sleeping with Douglas, Jeanne Tripplehorn. At the end a couple cops and suspects are dead and we don’t know for sure that Stone wasn’t the killer all along.
Matt Damon is Scott, who gets introduced to Liberace (Lee to his friends) by laid-back mustache dude Scott Bakula in the late 1970’s, beginning an affair/family/employee situation that lasts until Lee (Michael Douglas) finally kicks out Scott in favor of a new, younger, less-drug-addicted, less-contentious boy. It comes full circle from when Scott replaced gloomy pretty-boy Cheyenne Jackson (Danny, the new cast member on 30 Rock) at Lee’s house. Liberace dies of AIDS, but Scott is cut out of the will, Lee’s verbal promises not carrying any legal weight, so Scott writes a tell-all memoir.
Performances are great, storytelling is effective, costumes and period details are spot-on, but it can’t break out of the “bio-pic based on tell-all memoir” genre. A squinty Rob Lowe is the highlight as a plastic surgeon who makes Douglas look younger and Damon look weirder with shiny cheeks. Dan Aykroyd plays Lee’s manager and Debbie Reynolds (Tammy and the Bachelor, Susan Slept Here) his mother. Adapted from Scott’s book by Richard LaGravenese (The Fisher King).
A. Cook: “I don’t know if any other American filmmaker is more inventive right now with choosing where to place the camera, how to frame the image, how to use focus, etc.” I get what he’s saying – in this and Haywire and Contagion I notice unusual editing and shot choices – but the movies’ standard Hollywood storytelling and starpower get in the way. If I was dedicated enough, I might rewatch Haywire paying attention only to its framing and technical qualities, but maybe instead Soderbergh needs more interesting scripts to go with his artistic filmmaking intentions – The Informant being a good example.