Sliver (Unrated)

Original Theatrical Poster

Sliver (1993)

It seems really funny that this film showed up from my Netflix queue today, when I said I was going to watch The Girl or high art…two very serious, somewhat important films — in comparison, Sliver, unarguably, is junk food.  I’ve been a good girl this week, made two very long commutes in two days, so, opening the little red Netflix envelope and extricating the Sliver (Unrated) DVD from within…I think, “Why not?”

After all, I’ve never seen the unrated version, and it could be fun.

As the first strains of “Carly’s Song” by Enigma plays and you look out at the gorgeous night skyline, you think you might like this film.  Have you read the book by Ira Levin?  Yes, there was actually a book that was a precursor to this Joe Eszterhas venture.  The book, as I remember it, was pretty decent (I haven’t read it in sixteen or so years, so, cut me some slack).  It’s funny to look back at this film now – with all of the surveilance cameras capturing everything.  I remember thinking, “Wow, that’s super high-tech.”  It was really just the faintest dawning of what we would probably now consider the high-tech era.  For instance, later in the film, it’s great seeing Carly Norris (played by Sharon Stone) rifle through the microfische files at the library – it reminds you what life was like on the eve before the super massive Internet changed everything.  I love that about films – they are such great time capsules when done well, capturing everything that was hot, hip, shocking, cutting edge at the time.  Like Stone’s berets.  I didn’t stop wearing beret’s for two years after this movie came out.  And let me just say, because I speak from experience, no one looks sexy in a beret, but that didn’t stop us from thinking we did in 1993.  That’s why it’ll be such a laugh to watch Sex and the City again in 5 years.

No one looks sexy in a beret...no one.

No one looks sexy in a beret...no one.

And, by the way, if you’re a single gal living in any major city – you may want to have a longer think about to whom you give your apartment key.  Seriously.

Sharon Stone.  That’s a sentence in and of itself.  This was pre-stroke, post Basic Instinct.  I remember how badly the critics received the film, and after seeing this (twice in the theatres for me), I thought the were overly harsh.  When taken at face value, almost any film has redeemable qualities.  Take for example, this little gem:

“You are ready for new adventures, new horizons, new lovers, new orgasms!”

That’s right.  It was 1993, and even though Carly (Stone) and her colleague Judy (play by Colleen Camps) are walking through the publishing house where they work, they are talking about adventures and orgasms.  Classic.  Where’s the HR department, again?

What makes me laugh now, especially since I’m closer to Carly’s age, is how she retorts “I’m 35, not 25.  I don’t need a date.  I need a relationship.”

This film has some great noir qualities, if you’re looking for them – nevermind the Banana Republic beiges, the cold stainless steel, and the cashmere scarfs.  Check out all of the great overhead panning camera shots – never letting you forget a.) that someone could be watching you or that b.) everything you’re doing will have ramifications.

Quick question here as Carly moves into the sliver apartment building – everyone keeps introducing themselves.  Now, I’ve lived in quite a few places over the course of my (somewhat) short life, and I have never had so many neighbors introduce themselves.  Does that really happen?  Oh, wait.  I don’t look like Sharon Stone.  That’s right.   And I’ve never lived in New York – I hear people are so much friendlier there,  not like in Seattle where everyone is self-absorbed and quiet (blame the cold and rain).  Nevermind, mystery solved.

Another funny tidbit as the film gets going – don’t you giggle now watching Carly talk to the older gentleman, Gus Hale (played by Keene Curtis)  in the lobby?  Gus tells Carly he gave the doorman $5 for information about her after Carly moves into the same apartment where a current tennant (seen in the opening credits) has comitted suicide.  To this, Carly replies, “You must have liked her an awful lot to spend five bucks.”  I can’t remember exactly what $5 used to get you in 1993, but if I really wanted to know something about someone I’m pretty sure I would have had to drop at least a Jackson to procure the info…and that’s on the West coast.

This movie also marks the first time I’d ever seen a woman practing her putt in her underwear, and enjoying it.  Seriously, is this what book publishers do when they’re home, alone, in New York?  That sure would explain a few things.  Since I know so few book publishers, maybe someone can fill me in because something tells me on her first night in a new place she’d probably be unpacking, drinking some wine, eating a pizza, and generally acting as though she were completely out of sorts.  No one ever feels that at home in a new place on the first night…do they?

So, we arrive at Sliver’s first “skin-section”.  Enlighten me on this one, too, while you’re at it – why does Carly make that face in the mirror after she looks at her stomach?  I remember reading somewhere that at about this time, after the film was shot, perhaps, Stone suffered a miscarriage – although, I was unable this evening to track anything down on the web to substantiate that foggy memory.  Still, the look she gives the mirror is made only more confusing as the next scene begins during which Carly tries out her new bathtub…please feel free to read as much into that as you like.  If you’ve seen the film, you know what I’m talking about – if not, guess it’s time for you to feed your need for early 90s tech-noir films and rent/borrow/buy it.

And then there’s William Baldwin (playing Zeke) – ahead of his time in a nice dress jacket and trendy printed t-shirt.  I haven’t mentioned him yet for a reason – ready for a laugh?  I basically turned into this dork – well, only insomuchas I work from home as a software developer (in the film he calls himself a game developer).  Otherwise, we’re nothing alike.  Well, and I like to wear expensive dress jackets with trendy printed t-shirts.  But I never wear khakis.  I find them distasteful.

Along comes Tom Berenger as Jack Landsford – the incredibly arrogant writer who proclaims “Why hasn’t she read me?  Everyone’s read me” when he is introduced to Carly.  I’m sure some women love this kind of grade-A pinhead, but he turns me off faster than Easter brunch, what with his double scotch and cigarette.  Don’t get me wrong, scotch is a-okay.  But it’s the way Berenger’s Jack waves his hand about holding both the scotch and the cigarette as if he’s so busy he needs a free hand.  It’s the very opposite of elegant.  And I like my men to be elegant when they’re drinking scotch and complaining like a queen when they meet someone who has no idea who they are despite the fact that everyone else does.

Right about now, I’m thinking they’ve introduced quite a cast of characters and it’s time for the film to develop them and their relationships, you know, start building some tension.  But, wait.  There’s more for us to keep track of…enter Polly Walker as Carly’s next door neighbor, Vida Warren.  Great accent, especially when she says “my bum is still blue.”  If you’re thinking that now, now you’re going to be able to follow the people you’ve been introduced to, hold on.  The massive mini-screen voyeur sequences of totally random people are fascinating, if not a bit overwhelming, and in retrospect, may be what turned so many people onto reality television…in which case, maybe Phillip Noyce ought to be tried for crimes against humanity.  Just a thought.

And just when I’m starting to get pissed at Noyce, he shoots Stone running through Central Park in a hoodie listening to her walkman.  Love it.  Women should run all the time.  They look fantastic, especially Stone who was in great shape during the filming of this movie.  I’m really feeling the whole New York vibe right up until and including the moment where Jack (Berenger) runs up to her like some creepy rapist.  I didn’t like it in 1993, and big surprise, I still don’t like it in 2009.

This is a no-brainer, but the theme of voyeurism is paramount throughout Sliver. Even as Carly throws her house-warming party (dear God!  Could I please watch a movie without a party scene in it?), the guests take the opportunity to peep at a couple across the street who are in the throws — even they have a telescope!  Everyone has one!  I do, too.  I do.  Seriously.  A person I was dating at the time this movie came out bought me one as a joke.  I still have it.

So, as we’re starting to get lulled into the plot here, Zeke makes a bold move and asks 35 year-old Carly to go to the gym with him, as if it would be fun.  Like a date, without being a date.  After all, he would get to see some skin, and it’s free.  I’m thinking now, as a woman in her 30’s, that perhaps this could have been misconstrued by a woman in the 90s.  But, Carly’s a great sport about it and despite her initial fear of the mirror-factor (“There are mirrors, all over the place”), she agrees to go by not agreeing to go.  As Zeke leaves, creepy Jack pops out from the kitchen – the last man standing in Carly’s apartment – he even has a bit of spit on his lower left lip.  I’m not joking – pause it and look for yourself.  Gross.  All of the flirt-energy she could have given to Zeke now goes to icky-ka Jack and his spit-lip.  Double-gross.  I don’t care how many books a man sells, or how many ranches he has.  If he can’t not drool, he doesn’t belong in your high-tech, glossy, babe-magnet New York highrise apartment.

So far, I haven’t seen anything unrated about this version of the film.  Even the way Zeke helps Carly keep her hips straight in the gym scene is exactly the way I remember it.  The whole Stone/Baldwin dynamic created quite a controversy in 1993.  Amidst the rumors that the off-screen relationship the two shared was violent, agressive, and generally mean,  most people found the difference in their age distasteful.  Seeing the film now, they seem perfectly appropriate for one another.

Sharon Stone & William Baldwin

Sharon Stone & William Baldwin

It’s funny that after spending a day flagrante delicto, so to speak, Carly is offended when she learns Zeke owns the building and gave her application special treatment.  Of course he gave you special treatment.  You’re Sharon Stone.  General tip for the ladies – be wary of any guy who wears a pinky ring.  That thing just looks creepy while he’s panning his little cameras around, watching Carly sleep on her sofa.

Time to build the plot – back at the office, Judy and Carly swap their tales of sex in the city.  We’re led to believe that Jack, who Judy has run off with over the weekend, is impotent due to his fixation on Carly.  Creepy.  You don’t run off to spend a weekend with creepy Jack Landsfords – and this is evidenced by his inexplicable appearance in Carly’s apartment and how he spouts off in what can only be described as a jealous rage.  By my count, this is what…like the third or fourth time they’ve even been in the same room together and already Jack is trying to tell her what to do with her love life.  What a control freak – I don’t care if he is trying to save her life, which I suppose is what we’re meant to believe.  But, I don’t.  Not for a minute.  Even though Zeke is some kind of creepy himself, what with his television monitors and soundproof chamber of voyeuristic intent, I always suspect Jack at this juncture in the film.  After all, it’s pretty clear that Zeke is just a perv.  Keep your eye on Jack.

I love going out for truffles, by the way, and being made to show off my blue lingerie.  “What about the panties?”  Oh, no, you didn’t just try to throw down with Sharon “I’ll just uncross and cross my legs” Stone.  Love that she just takes them off and throws them on top of his dinner plate as the waiter comes over and asks for their order.  Only in New York…and Los Angeles…and maybe San Francisco.

Still nothing unrated.

Okay.  Maybe I spoke too soon.  The pillar scene in Zeke’s apartment following the dinner of only truffles and lingerie has a few added seconds of unadulterated Baldwin-butt.  Enjoy, if that’s your thing.  Personally, I don’t think it’s added anything to the film save it’s ability to now be garnered with the “(unrated)” parenthetical embellishment on it’s sleeve.  But, I’m not one to deprive anyone of their right to see more butt in film.  As a rule, I find Americans to be much more uptight about these minor flesh shots than is morally necessary.  Get over it, America.  Butts happen.  In fact, how about we stop pasting “(unrated)” on dvd sleeves and start using tags like “(Naked Butt Edition)”?  Call a butt a butt, why don’t we?  Maybe it would help us get over our puritanical, moral confusion when we see a naked butt.

I guess it’s time for some homicide now that we’ve had so much sex.  It seems like someone always has to pay in movies like these when other people are so happy just to keep things in balance.  Too bad for us, it has to be the Brit from down the hall, you know, the one we’ve barely gotten to know because all she does is fly around the world for fashion shoots and snort coke in her apartment (alone).  Vida, fearing she’ll get caught in the elevator when the lights begin to flicker in the building, flees down the stairwell only to be met by a knife-wielding psycho in a hoodie with a cough who slashes her.  Carly hears the screams – and runs to investigate, only to find creepy Jack hovering over the Vida’s blood-drenched, lifeless body.  He chases Carly back up the stairs, to the elevator as Carly tries to escape him.  I love it when she smashes his hand with the fire extinguisher – good girl.

It’s finally time for Zeke’s big reveal.  As Carly is consoled by Zeke in his apartment, she rightfully expresses concern that the police will release Jack and he will simple return for her.  Zeke can’t resist showing her his wall of televisions – and Jack’s apartment.  “I had them custom built in Osaka.  Cost me six million dollars.”

Perv-o-vision

Perv-o-vision

Carly demands to see her apartment, her discomfort growing.  “You watch these people?”

“So do you, Carly, with your telescope.  I just have better technology.”

She flees, momentarily, but is drawn back to the monitors in Zeke’s secret soundprood room — all of which are now actively displaying various apartments in the building.  It’s a giant cacophony of humanity – people shaving, eating, fighting, dancing, having uncomfortable conversations.  Carly needs little encouragement to take Zeke’s toy for a spin, spending what could be perceived as an entire day spying on her neighbors.  Some (like me) would argue that the best thing to come out of this creative venture is the soundtrack (which I own on cassette tape and is packed away somewhere in a storage box) – this scene is framed with a great track.

I do enjoy the sense of personal responsibility you get from Zeke’s reporting of the lecherous father, but the flip side is equally daunting — how do you decide who to help?  How do you know who needs help?  You simply couldn’t, and not everything is going to be as black and white as abuse.

The final word:  Sliver (Unrated Willliam Baldwin Bare Butt Edition) is ultimately dissatisfying – it serves neither as an effective thriller nor as a sexy suspense.  What Sliver does well is to remind us that it isn’t always the perv you need to be afraid of and that personal hygiene is almost as important as not walking around naked in your apartment.  Ever.

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