The Underrated: The Last Seduction
The Last Seduction, if I were ever to do something as dumb as this for the 90’s(an infinitely better decade than 2000-2010), would be in my top 10. It’s got a 94% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and it contains one of the definitive female performances of that decade. So, I suppose, technically it isn’t underrated. Except, and here’s the rub, that this is a film that revisionist clowns are now claiming is bad, and one that, even worse, seems to have dropped off the radar. I’m not joking with that- Mrs. Jarv (who tends to be quite knowledgeable about these sort of things had never even heard of it).
Put very simply, in a film that isn’t simple, The Last Seduction is about Bridget. The film opens with her “motivating” a telesales team, while her hapless hubby Clay attempts to flog some purloined pharmaceutical quality drugs. They meet up at their apartment, where he signs his death warrant by slapping her, thus forcing her hand and she takes the $700,000 and runs to Beston in the middle of nowhere. There she hooks up with local loser, Mike, and takes a job in an insurance company to hide from Clay. Clay is, unsurprisingly, somewhat pissed, because he borrowed $100,000 to buy the gear in the first place, and loan sharks aren’t known for their patience, so he’s hired a Private Eye to retrieve it. Events escalate before Bridget manipulates Mike to a frankly superb climax.
I really struggled with that, as this is not an easy film to summarise. The plot meanders around from point A to point B, and although there is no doubt at all that Bridget is the villain of the piece (anti-heroine if I’m being nice), I sort of wanted her to get away with it, and that’s for one reason: Linda Fiorentino.
This performance is the definitive noir femme-fatale of the 90’s. Bridget is a stone cold arch-manipulative bitch, and yet I still want her to get away with it. She’s a sexy combination of genius and whore with the morals of an alley cat and the scruples of an investment banker. And I doubt any red-blooded male would even think twice about hopping in the sack with her. This is a dry and evil performance trading on Fiorentino’s not inconsiderable sex appeal but lacing it with charisma and chutzpah. Bridget just does not give a fuck about anything or anyone that isn’t Bridget, and Fiorentino manages to portray Bridget as a charming, deeply sexy sociopath- the men in this film never stand a chance. She’s a sleazy, aggressive, evil fucking bitch without any redeemable qualities and more than willing to lie, cheat, manipulate and sleep her way to her goals. On rewatching it, I now believe that Clay’s misguided slap was just an excuse that she needed- she never had any intention of sharing the money.
As much as The Last Seduction is really the Fiorentino show, all the acting in it is top drawer. Peter Berg has never been better as the dimwitted Mike, and Bill Pullman is fabulously sleazy as Clay. JT Walsh appears in a small cameo at the beginning (and is heard on the phone a few times), but they’re all very much able support for Bridget. There can be absolutely no criticising the acting in this film.
Nor can I criticise the writing. Fiorentino has some simply marvellous exchanges with the men of the film- such as this one with Mike:
Bridget: You’re my designated fuck.
Mike: Designated fuck? Do they make cards for that? What if I want to be more than your designated fuck?
Bridget: Then I’ll designate someone else.
That practically gives me a hard-on thinking about it. Nevertheless, the other characters get great lines as well, such as Clay’s superb “hiring a New York sociopath” line. Really, the script absolutely sparkles with dry humour interchanged with telling exchanges that reveal motivation and character but are never expository.
Dahl is simply a director born to make these noirish films. Red Rock West was fucking superb, but this trumps it in every way. It saddens me that he’s slumming it in TV land, because I’d much rather he made films like this- he’s clearly good at it. In this instance, the direction and composition is assured without being intrusive- he knows he’s got a first rate cast and solid gold material and he’s confident enough to let it speak for itself. There’s no flashy editing or ridiculous analeptical narrative devices here, and there doesn’t need to be. This is a masterclass in letting actors earn sympathy for their characters- I feel really, really sorry for poor dimwitted Mike, and I’m not convinced that Clay deserves what happens to him. More directors could really learn from his less is more approach.
The music, written by Joseph Vitarelli, however, is simply fucking breathtakingly good. If I had to define it, then I’d say it’s jazz, but what it is is the most perfect accompaniment for the action on screen. It adds a layer of atmosphere to the film, and for the life of me I cannot think of a more apt score for this material. Top drawer stuff.
This is also a damned sexy film. Fiorentino turned down the offer of a body double for a lot of it (she clearly doesn’t need one), and the sex scenes practically steam. It’s also deeply sexy, because of Bridget, even when there is nothing overtly sexual going on. Watching her prowl up and down the telesales banks giving “motivation” to her peons nearly made me wonder if a career in telesales would be worth it. It isn’t, but she almost makes it so.
On the minus side, and this is only a minor quibble, the audience has to accept that America is populated by men with room temperature IQ’s. Seriously, they’re dumbasses to a man. Mike probably has a larger shoe size than IQ, Clay is a fuckup that writes bad prescriptions, Frank is a sleazy lawyer and the various private investigators probably struggle to walk and chew gum at the same time. Having said that, though, I doubt Machiavelli himself would stand a chance.
Overall, this is a film I thoroughly recommend- even if only for Fiorentino’s performance. It angers me that it’s slipping from view when utter drivel like Basic Instinct still gets plaudits. Sharon Stone has nothing on Fiorentino, and this is a career defining performance. Admittedly, she did then stack it by rehashing Bridget, except in a more lame way, in the unforgivable shite that is Estarhazs scripted, Friedkin directed Jade but well, if she’s going to be remembered it should be for this film.
The Last Seduction is a film where the little moments matter (Bridget putting out a cigarette in the apple pie that was made especially for Mike being a prime example) and it’s a film that is so much more than the sum of its parts. If ever there’s a four chang film out there, The Last Seduction is really it, and I honestly cannot recommend it enough.
Until next time,