I don't have anything to add to what you've said, at least in terms of analysis. I think you've summed up the film's problem very precisely. But it
might to interesting to ask, "Why?"
It seems to be two separate movies compacted uncomfortably
into one because that's just what it is. Exit to Eden was originally a romance novel,
a woman's erotic fantasy, one of those things with Fabio on the cover, and
it was written by Anne Rice.
Yes, the same Anne Rice who is most famous as the author of Interview with a
Vampire, and is now devoting her talent to Jesus. I haven't read the book
and it's unlikely that I ever will, but I understand that there is nothing
in it about L.A. cops or diamond smuggling, and there's no comedy. All of
that was added for the movie version.
I suppose Garry Marshall felt that the original story would have to be a late-night cable film
if kept in the foreground, but could get
worked into a sexy mainstream film if moved to the background. Maybe he was
right about that, but this script treatment just didn't work. The two
stories required very different tones, and they more or less contradicted
one another's virtues. As you pointed out in your letter, the viewer gets
ready to sink into the erotic fantasy and then sees Ackroyd and Rosie and
loses his erection. Maybe for weeks.
I know that Rice is known to be thrilled with the film adaptation of
Interview With a Vampire. I'd love to hear her comments on this one.
I have to tell you, though, that I don't think the B&D story would be
much of a commercial movie on its own. Garry Marshall was absolutely right
that the romance between the mistress and the submissive, on its own, was nothing more
than a story for adult cable, like an expanded episode of Red Shoe Diaries.
He correctly identified that it needed fixing to make it a theatrical movie,
but the problem was that he didn't know how to fix it. He might have been able to keep the cop story
if he had filled it with dark thinly-veiled eroticism and sexy music, ala
Miami Vice. Rosie and Ackroyd didn't belong at that resort, but Crockett and
Tubbs would have fit right in. It didn't happen that way because Garry
Marshall is most comfortable with comedy, so that's what he turned to.
In summary, my take on it is that the story had three elements: the
thriller, the B&D romance, and the comedy. The romance alone, directed by
Zalman King, could have made an excellent Cinemax film. The romance plus the
thriller, directed by Michael Mann, could have made an excellent and
unthreateningly kinky movie for limited release, ala Secretary. The romance
plus the thriller plus the comedy, directed by Garry Marshall,
produced what the film is now. Which is bad. Real bad.
How bad is this movie?
The actors are miscast in general. Dana Delany is the world's least dominant dominatrix,
the only dominatrix who gives you milk and cookies as part of your
punishment. And some of the romance consisted of Rosie O'Donnell making
out with a young hunk, which may be the most uncomfortable love scene ever filmed. You guys voted for Rosie
O'Donnell's performance here as
the single worst performance ever given by a female in any movie.
And, except for the nudity, Rosie is the best thing in the
movie! By a wide margin.
She shone like a comedic beacon compared to Ackroyd.
On the other hand
Rosie and Ackroyd are Hope and Crosby when compared to the bizarre script.
- The jokes
- The movie's philosophy was written by eighth graders.
- The plot
and dialogue are from another planet. (Mercurio asks Delany to marry him
after they've been together about 10 hours.)
- The parallel plot
about the supercriminal may be the dullest crime story ever
- Hector Elizondo's scenes are completely unnecessary padding.
- The character development consisted of a couple of brief flashbacks
following a direct question - like when David Letterman has one of his
fantasies. ("How did I become a dominatrix? Ah, that's a very good
question. Well, ...")
- And if all that were not bad enough, Rosie O'Donnell actually narrates
all the action, Sam Spade style.
Mercifully, the author never sold another movie script.
I think this would be a serious contender for
the worst movie ever made if not for the copious and enjoyable
nudity. There is absolutely
nothing to hold your attention at any time except nekkid chicks.
Garry Marshall was definitely the wrong director for this
project. That I get. What I don't get is this: if he didn't want
to make a late-night cable movie, why did he buy the rights to
that kind of book in the first place?