This is no good. I’m already behind on my film noir, and I’ve got to catch up before I allow myself the joy of renting any guilty pleasure TV from Netflix. Dammit.
The two main reasons I watched Body Heat over the weekend?
1) Kathleen Turner
2) Getting one step closer to checking out Teen Wolf
If people don’t take me seriously as both a movie geek and a human being, I guess I only have myself to blame.
Skeezy lawyer Ned Racine (William Hurt) and sexy lady Matty Walker (Kathleen Turner) begin to have a sweaty, sweaty affair and, also, plot to kill Matty’s husband.
1. So, I like parts of this movie. I’d say I liked any part with Kathleen Turner in it, but that’s not entirely true — I had some second act issues with Body Heat that Matty definitely featured in. (Although my inclination is to lay more of the blame on script than acting, in this case.) Regardless, Kathleen Turner? My God, she is a sexy woman.
Like, that voice? I would murder people for that voice. Honestly, if I could somehow possess that voice by, oh, I don’t know, attacking you with an axe a little? You would totally be missing several vital pieces right now. Sorry, faithful readers.
Seriously, though. Kathleen Turner is sharp and funny and smoldering as all hell, and she generally embodies everything I want and expect from a femme fatale. I’ll have to discuss some of my problems with her character later in the Spoiler Section, but overall, I enjoyed her performance a great deal.
2. Of course, I am predisposed to liking Matty because I’ve always liked Kathleen Turner, ever since I first saw Romancing the Stone when I was a wee one. In the case of William Hurt, though, the opposite is true.
It’s not that I hate William Hurt, but he has not particularly won me over in the handful of movies I’ve seen him in. Offhand, the only thing I can say I’ve really enjoyed his performance in is Dark City. Everything else? Eh.
But as far as his performance here goes . . . it’s pretty decent, I think? Like, he’s playing a sleazeball lawyer, and I completely buy him as that. I can’t say I ever like Ned — certainly not during exchanges like this:
Ned: “Maybe you shouldn’t go out dressed like that.”
Matty: “This is a blouse and skirt. I don’t know what you mean.”
Ned: “Maybe you shouldn’t wear that body.”
Like, charming, you sexist, skeevy fucker. But Ned’s supposed to be a sexist, skeevy fucker, so performance-wise, that’s all fine . . . except I wonder if I’m also supposed to find him particularly attractive, at least as far as his passionate romance with Matty goes? They do hit a bunch of Hottest Movie Couple of All Time lists, and yet . . . I am just not the target audience for this kind of relationship. Like, the infamous scene — and super mild spoilers here — when Ned throws a chair through Matty’s glass door, breaks into her house, and screws her right then and there on the carpet? Yeah, no. I think Ziva from NCIS sums up my feelings on that scene, and Matty and Ned’s sexual relationship in general:
Like, right? Who finds that attractive? Matty has to pay for that door now, you asshole — at the very least, she has to come up with a good excuse for why her husband has to pay for that door. Anyway, William Hurt might have been able to make Ned sexier for me, but only maybe. Any character who smashes his way into a woman’s home like a horny gorilla is going to need a seriously pretty face and an ungodly amount of charisma for me to have any other reaction but retreat! retreat! or KILL IT WITH FIRE.
3. I like a lot of the dialogue in this film, particularly the banter between Matty and Ned in the first twenty minutes or so. However, once the sexy times begin in earnest, the banter all but disappears, which, to my mind, is entirely unfortunate, and not only because I often find words sexier than actual sex scenes. (Although that probably does play a part in the issues I take with Act II. Maybe if I was more into the bedroom stuff . . . but no, I think I’d still have legitimate problems with that portion of the film.)
4. Also, while I totally approve of sweat noir, I feel like the movie could have toned down the heat wave stuff just a little. I think they only mention the temperature about forty-six times in the first twenty minutes. Plus — though they are invariably a fact of life — no one really enjoys looking at pit stains, do they?
Subtlety, people. It’s all about subtlety.
5. The supporting cast is pretty good. Richard Crenna — who I like in both First Blood and Hot Shots! Part Deux — plays Mattie’s intimidating husband, and J.A. Preston — who I mostly know from A Few Good Men — plays Ned’s cop friend who starts to get suspicious. But I primarily want to single out two men: Mickey Rourke and Ted Danson.
Seriously, check out Mickey Rourke.
This might not be so surprising if you watched Mickey Rourke back in the 80’s, but even though I knew his name, I’m pretty sure the first time I ever laid eyes on the guy was in Once Upon a Time in Mexico, so yeah. He looks different. Sounds different too, actually. Kind of blew my mind. I mean, I knew a little about the boxing and the bad plastic surgeries and all, but still. I had a hard time believing that this two-bit bomber dude was actually Ivan Vanko. (And Marv too, for that matter. Marv is kind of awesome.)
Anyway, Rourke only has a couple of scenes in Body Heat, but he effectively steals the screen from William Hurt whenever he’s on it. And, man, speaking of screen-stealers:
Ted Danson doesn’t quite inspire the same level of holy Christ, is that really him reaction that I had to Mickey Rourke, but I will say that I cracked up considerably when I saw Danson come on screen with his big, post-70’s glasses and his absurdly dark hair. I’m not singling him out for that, though; actually, I just really enjoyed the hell out of his character. Peter has a weird sort of energy that I wouldn’t normally associate with Ted Danson at all, and I really liked his scene with William Hurt on the dock. Also, his character breaks out into spontaneous dancing for no apparent reason that I can tell, and he kind of looks decent doing it. More movie characters should just start dancing at random intervals.
6. Finally, I basically want all of Kathleen Turner’s clothes, and that’s just not something I say about fashion from the 80’s, even the early 80’s.
The same could not be said for William Hurt’s short shorts and polo shirts. These are things also best killed with fire. Let us all agree right here and now to never bring back mens short shorts, okay?
Okay, so Ned’s busy living his life — defending loser clients by day, having one night stands by night — when he spies Matty in a crowd and quickly becomes obsessed with having her. And like I said before, their banter back and forth is pretty great.
But then she invites him into her home and quickly kicks him out again, and he’s all, I can’t stand to not be touching you, and he smashes his way inside — like a total psycho — and they have sex and then more sex and then more sex, and all the witty banter just goes by the wayside. It makes me sad.
Also, Matty’s like, “I wish my husband was dead,” and Ned’s like, “Hey, I know what we’re going to do. We’re going to kill your husband!” And Matty’s like, “Oh, we can’t, we mustn’t, oh, okay.”
So, it turns out that Matty is totally setting Ned up and has been from the beginning. Which isn’t too hard to guess and is frankly what I was hoping for, but that doesn’t change the fact that watching her go from all confident and awesome in the first twenty minutes to an hour long litany of “I’m weak” and “Oh, Ned, hold me” — well, it’s frustrating and kind of boring. Plot-wise, the change in her character makes sense, but if it’s supposed to fool me as an audience member, like if I’m supposed to believe that she’s actually just rapidly done a 180 into useless, lovestruck female? Yeah, I never bought it.
So I think I need a little more equal-footing between the lovers in the second act, a little back and forth, even as Mattie’s manipulating Ned to think he’s the man with the plan. It would seem more credible to me and, ultimately, just make the movie a little more enjoyable.
My other problem with the film is probably Mary Ann.
Mary Ann (Kim Zimmer) is Matty’s friend from high school and looks enough like her to actually be mistaken for Matty, at least from behind. (Hey, Foreshadow Dance time!) We eventually figure out that Matty kills Mary Ann offscreen. Near the end of the movie, Matty’s boathouse blows up, supposedly taking Matty with it. But Ned, the (suddenly) clever bastard that he is, figures out from jail that Matty and Mary Ann switched identities when they were young. When he looks at a yearbook, he confirms this: Matty is actually Mary Ann, and Mary Ann actually Matty.
I don’t mind the idea of this twist. I actually like the yearbook reveal itself, and I figured that Mary Ann (er, the Kim Zimmer-Mary Ann, that is) was pushing up the daisies in that boathouse long before the movie told you. But switching identities is kind of a big deal, logistics-wise, and I just didn’t entirely buy it when Ned woke up in jail and just figured it all out after some particularly illuminating dream. I feel like he didn’t necessarily have enough evidence to make that connection — Matty faking her own death, sure, but the whole identity swap itself? I don’t know. There have to be other ways to fake dental records, ways I might personally have jumped to before I got to ‘Matty was never Matty, after all!’
Ultimately, the twist itself doesn’t bother me — it just feels like Lawrence Kasdan is explaining it to us through Ned, rather than Ned actually figuring it out on his own. It’s not a big problem, but it does irk me a little.
The movie ends with Kathleen Turner on some beach where it’s (shockingly) hot. Her face is almost kind of blankly composed — she is neither weeping tears of regret, nor grinning at how she fooled everyone and got away scot free. I suspect different people have different interpretations of this scene, but for me, I didn’t actually read much remorse or unhappiness in her face. I certainly didn’t get a punishment, you-did-bad-things-and-they-weren’t-really-worth-it-were-they sort of vibe. I took her expression — or lack thereof — as almost a sociopathic coolness, like she has no feelings and never has, like this is the true face she’s always been hiding. I can see other interpretations, of course, but I kind of like mine best, maybe just because it makes her the kind of badass I immediately took her for.
Matty is, after all, the kind of person who’s willing to do anything that needs to be done. (And in movies? Those are the kind of people I am really, really drawn to.)
Matty: “You aren’t too smart, are you? I like that in a man.”
Ned: “What else do you like? Lazy? Ugly? Horny? I got em all.”
Matty: “You don’t look lazy.”
Matty: “I’m a married woman.”
Ned: “Meaning what?”
Matty: “Meaning I’m not looking for company.”
Ned: “Then you should have said ‘I’m a happily married woman’.”
Ned: “I need tending. I need someone to take care of me, someone to rub my tired muscles, smooth out my sheets.”
Matty: “Get married.”
Ned: “I just need it for tonight.”
Ned: “Maybe you need a tuneup.”
Matty: “Don’t tell me. You have just the right tool.”
Teddy: “I’ve got a serious question for you: what the fuck are you doing?”
Teddy: “Any time you try a decent crime, you got fifty ways you’re gonna fuck up. If you think of twenty-five of them, you’re a genius . . . and you ain’t no genius.”
Peter is offered a cigarette as everyone lights up around him.
Peter: “Oh, I don’t need my own. I’ll just breathe the air.”
Peter: “I had a dream last night so boring it woke me. I was afraid to go back to sleep.”
Ned: “What’s in the boathouse?”
Matty: “A boat.”
Ned: “Can I buy you a drink?”
Matty: “I told you: I’ve got a husband.”
Ned: “I’ll buy him one too.”
Matty: “He’s out of town.”
Ned: “My favorite kind. We’ll drink to him.”
Matty: “Only comes up on weekends.”
Ned: “I’m liking him better all the time.”
Matty: “Would you get me a paper towel or something? Dip it in some cold water.”
Ned: “Right away. I’ll even wipe it off for you.”
Matty: “You don’t want to lick it?”
Oscar: “What you got for pie today, Stella?”
Stella: “I got cherry, cherry, and . . . cherry.”
Oscar: “Well, what do you recommend?”
Stella: “I like the cherry.”
Peter: “You know that Edmund Walker was a bad guy, and the more I find out about him, the happier I am he’s dead. I figure it’s a positive thing for the world.”
Ned: “You’re not known for being a hard-liner.”
Peter: “Well, I have my own standards. I just try to keep them private.”
Matty: “Ned, this is Mary Ann.”
Mary Ann: “We were just meeting. Ned made me feel very welcome.”
Smart and enjoyable and sometimes surprisingly funny, but I really wish the second act worked as well for me as the first and the third.
Kathleen Turner, but I did seriously consider Ted Danson
You just can’t trust a woman who wants you to murder her husband.