by Ryan Arthur
Hmm. I guess your disappointment with this particular film is based on how big of an Anne Rice fan you are. But make no mistake, you'll be disappointed.I'm continually amazed by Hollywood's ability to latch onto literary film projects, and then add the twist, whether it be an alteration to an ending or omission of a character or something else, which then sends a rabid fanbase into a tizzy. I don't remember there being a fan backlash when Exit To Eden was released. Maybe everyone was saving their venom for Interview With The Vampire. Not that it matters.
"Kinda makes you look at Rosie in a different light now, doesn't it?"
The twist to the film version of Eden is that the erotic themes of the novel take a backseat (and that's not an anal reference...yet) to, of all things, a crime caper involving a jewel thief. That, in and of itself, wouldn't be so bad, I guess, but it's all played for laughs as two bumbling detectives, played by Dan Aykroyd and Rosie O'Donnell try to solve the mystery.
At this point, perhaps you're thinking, "But Ryan, it's like softcore! It's got comic hijinks! Dana Delaney as a dominatrix! Assorted other lovelies that look like they moonlight as part of the Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling! What's not to like?"
And to that I say this:
"Rosie O'Donnell in bondage gear."
Try and rub one out now, junior.
Ill-conceived on every level, Exit To Eden tells the story of Elliot (Strictly Ballroom's Paul Mercurio) as a well-known and celebrated photographer with a thing for spanking, a fetish he's had since he was a boy in Australia. So Paul takes a trip to Club Eden, an exclusive Bondage/Domination getaway, kind of like an adult version of Fantasy Island, if Tattoo and Mr. Rouarke tied people up and did DVDA (there's the anal reference), only not. It's at Club Eden that Paul falls for Mistress Lisa (Dana Delaney, looking a little too pixie-ish cute to be the kind of woman who shoves things into very uncomfortable places, but hey), who heads up the resort as lead dominatrix.
Interesting concept, but one that might have worked, if not for the second plot thread, which is completely foreign to the book. Paul, accomplished photographer that he is, has unknowingly snapped the only known pictures of super criminal Omar (Stuart Wilson) and his sidekick Nina (Iman). Omar decides to follow Paul to Eden, off him, and take the film.
OK. Not perfect, but salvagable, but the film unravels completely as two cops (the aforementioned Aykroyd and O'Donnell) arrive at Eden incognito and try to simultaneously protect Paul and flush Omar and Nina out into the open.
Buy into it yet? Didn't think so.
I don't have a clue what director Garry Marshall was thinking. Not a fucking clue. Maybe he thought he could capture the magic of Pretty Woman again, since he certainly didn't do it with Frankie And Johnny (and wouldn't do it again until last year's The Princess Diaries). You can (and should) lay some of the blame at the feet of screenwriter Deborah Amelon, but Marshall's at fault, too. It's not funny to see O'Donnell in a leather bondage gear, dammit, it's scarring. Jesus, any screenwriter who thinks thaat any kind of setup involving "wouldn't it be funny if (pseudo-celebrity a) was cast as (something completely against type, but with an added, quirky twist)? Like if Jerry Seinfeld played a Hannibal Lecter-type with a penchant for collecting those little pine-tree air fresheners for cars?" should be taken out be beaten soundly, Kitaen-style. Sweet fucking Christ, was every screenwriter in Holywood in the early- to mid-nineties a struggling standup comic who someday hoped to become Ray Romano's bitch?
Exit To Eden doesn't completely jettison the sex, (there is at least one on-screen intercourse, a spanking and one implication of a guy showing just how cunning a linguist he is) but it's all overshadowed by the lame caper and even lamer pursuit by the odd couple cops. Aykroyd plays it as the straight-laced chauvanist one, and it's O'Donnell that's the free spirit, making Aykroyd's character all the more uncomfortable. Imagine the hilarity of the feminine hygiene jokes. Yes, that's the level that Eden falls to, tampon and douche jokes before they were even in style.
I guess all the movie has going for it is Delaney and Mercurio. And Delaney's breasts. Those were nice, too. They get their own little starring scene involving a stick of butter, cinnamon and Mercurio's tongue. That'll be the only thing that single men (and probably attached men, and even some women) will even think about after seeing Exit To Eden, and it's not a bad image to be stuck with, really. Anyway, Mercurio and Delaney look good together, and he's got a certain charm about him, too. It's too bad that the failure of this movie pretty much buried his career here in the States. Delaney's gorgeous, of course, but as I mentioned earlier, she doesn't quite fit the profile of what a dominatrix (should? does? might?) looks like. There were better choices for the role, I'd think, although Delaney does okay with no more than she's given.
I guess I'm disappointed that a movie that could have been good is reduced to what it is. I want to see every movie succeed, and if it's based on a book, I'm sure the fans, not to mention the author, want it to as well. Exit To Eden could've been a great sensual, erotic film with a somewhat decent literary pedigree and the fact that Mickey Rourke was nowhere near this film. This could've been a great couples movie (not necessarily a date movie, you understand...), but is instead a footnote in the career of almost everyone involved.Look, if it's softcore you want, Cinemax runs that kinda stuff every Friday night, so go to town. But this is so *not* erotic, so *not* funny, and so *NOT* good, that the only way it could've been even remotely worse would be if Rosie O'Donnell were replaced by Bea Arthur. Then you really would go blind.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=2144&reviewer=7
originally posted: 06/26/02 10:58:21