March 03, 1986 12:00 PM

For a moment let’s forget who’s at fault for this sad-sack sex saga and praise instead one participant who isn’t to blame. Her name is Kim Basinger. Until five years ago, most people knew her as the blond, Georgia peach in the ads for Revlon and Clairol. Then she quit modeling to do star spots on TV (Portrait of a Centerfold) and in movies (Never Say Never Again) that crudely capitalized on her looks. She proved there was more by providing the only comic zing in The Natural and The Man Who Loved Women. Last year, as Sam Shepard’s emotionally bruised half sister in Fool for Love, Basinger surprised detractors with an acclaimed dramatic performance that showed she was ready to make a real run at stardom. Now probably not even 9½ Weeks can stop her, though the film is dumb enough to crush a lesser actress. Basinger plays a newly divorced art gallery assistant who wants nothing more of love until she meets Mickey (Year of the Dragon) Rourke, a commodities broker with a penchant for sadomasochistic games. Adapted from a 1978 novel by Elizabeth McNeill (supposedly based on her own experiences), the movie is crowded with 9½ weeks’ worth of sex scenes meant to represent the height of cinematic daring. Phooey. Compared to the lion’s roar of Last Tango in Paris, 9½ Weeks manages at most a mouse’s squeak. Rourke brandishes a riding crop in one scene and never uses it. Basinger dresses as a man to meet him at Manhattan’s Algonquin Hotel and looks merely silly. When, as a prelude to sex, they spill the gooey contents of Rourke’s refrigerator over their bodies and onto the kitchen floor, you think only of who’s going to clean the mess up. The erotica dished out here by director Adrian (Flashdance) Lyne sparks with all the excitement of a soggy sweat sock. And this from a movie widely heralded as “too dirty to release.” Scenes of Basinger handcuffed to a bed and swallowing Seconal pills with Rourke have been deleted to avoid an X rating. But no one has spared us Rourke moping around like a truant messenger boy or clunky dialogue or tricky camera techniques that grow tiresome. Against this flow of piffle, Basinger makes a valiant try at finding the heart of a woman in thrall to her own dark impulses. Her honesty earns her something her colleagues in this fetid enterprise don’t deserve: another chance. (R)

You May Like