Well, here’s a return to the Shelf of Shame, a series of posts in which I finally turn to a disc I bought but never watched (of which there are more than a few). This time around, its the neo-noir The Last Seduction, which I bought on Blu-ray back in 2015.
As a lover of film noir, its inevitable that any neo noir (a sub-genre which refers to films made after the traditionally accepted film noir period of the 1940s and 1950s, which share the noir sensibilities of those classic b&w thrillers like Double Indemnity, The Big Heat and Out of the Past) is usually right up my street, although inevitably neo-noir is a pretty wide-ranging term. An excellent example of neo-noir would be Lawrence Kasdan’s magnificent Body Heat from 1981.
I raise Body Heat as an example because its the film I thought of as I watched The Last Seduction– there is something so modern about each film’s femme fatale, in Body Heat‘s Kathleen Turner and The Last Seduction‘s Linda Fiorentino, who here portrays possibly one of films consummate screen bitches. Both films homage the noir of the past but also inform them with modern perspectives. I’m not sure those perspectives undermine anything, really they reinforce them in ways that the 1940s/1950s films could never get away with, whether it be the graphic sexuality of Body Heat or the sheer gender-baiting switchery of The Last Seduction. There was likely something quite revolutionary and scandalous about The Last Seduction when it was released in 1994, because even now in 2020 it took me aback.
To be clear, there is something quite astonishing regards Fiorentino’s performance, and something itself darkly noir about the fact that because the low-budget independent film was aired on HBO prior to that years Oscars, the actress was ineligible for Academy Award recognition (foreshadowing, oddly, recent concerns with films going straight to Netflix, etc). Fiorentino really is that good, an incandescent and fearless performance that burns the screen with its intensity. Basically, the central conceit of the film is that it switches what is traditionally accepted gender roles, Fiorentino’s Bridget Gregory cynically using and abusing her men as casually as Sean Connery’s Bond ever did in those 60s spy capers (which will likely inevitably lead with cautionary audience warnings on television airings anytime now). Bond was a bastard who casually used women, and Bridget is a bitch who casually uses her men, enabling her body as her keenest weapon and totally emasculating poor small-town nice guy Mike Swale (Peter Berg). “You’re my designated fuck” she tells him, clearly stating the depths of his value to her. Later he moans “I’m starting to feel like a…” “Sex object?” she finishes. Poor Mike. He’s doomed from the start.
I’m sure that plenty of essays and possibly books have been written about the female empowerment personified by Bridget in The Last Seduction, how she subverts traditional gender roles with an attitude which was ahead of its time even as late as 1994. Hell, I thought Sharon Stone’s Catherine Tramell in Basic Instinct was a bitch- she’s got very little on Bridget other than a talent with an ice-pick.
So impressive is the actress in the film that its really quite remarkable that, as far as I can tell, Fiorentino’s career afterwards went down the tubes incredibly quickly- other than a turn in the first Men in Black movie, her list of screen roles is fairly ignominious, and she hasn’t acted in anything since 2009. Considering comparison, say, with Sharon Stone’s career, and that Fiorentino’s turn here remains one of the most iconic screen bitches/femme fatales in the history of Hollywood, that takes some doing. I gather she has upset too many people in Hollywood, perhaps suggesting that she’s far closer to the fiery character she played in The Last Seduction after all, or simply that maybe Sharon Stone was smarter playing the Hollywood game.
Maybe she stepped away from it, deciding she was better off away from movies and Hollywood. Who knows? Her career is almost like one of those “what-if?” movies that never happened but which excites film buff imaginations, and it lends The Last Seduction with an additional meta-story. In any case, in The Last Seduction, its always 1994, and Fiorentino the greatest bitch Hollywood ever had.