Wide Sargasso Sea (1993) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

In our various discussions over the years, we have established an objective chick-flick measurement from the demographic breakdowns at IMDb. We subtract the male score from the female score, and a chick-flick is one in which the average score awarded by females is at least one full point higher than the score awarded by males. One point may not sound like much, but even at that modest level of female skew, films exhibit some serious estrogen levels, as evidenced by the fact that Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, for example, scores 1.1 on this scale, while Beaches scores 1.4. This is a tough enough standard that Gone With The Wind does not even qualify as a chick-flick, with a score of "only" 0.7.

As far as we had previously known, the all-time estrogen champion was Dirty Dancing, with 1.9, and that movie has such mystical power that many women will perform oral sex for hours on a man merely because he is willing to acknowledge (insincerely of course, but don't tell any women) that Dirty Dancing doesn't totally suck.

Wide Sargasso Sea scores 2.6.

How could it be otherwise? It is a prequel to Jane Eyre, which is the Dirty Dancing of novels. Wide Sargasso Sea reveals the story formerly left  unrevealed by Charlotte Bronte in Jane Eyre: the details of the first marriage of the dark, mysterious Mr. Rochester to a woman in the Caribbean who eventually became the madwoman in his attic in England. Jean Rhys wrote the novel, and she was supremely qualified, not only because of her literary ability, but also because she grew up in the Caribbean island of Dominica, knew the setting, and understood the relationships between the races on those islands, having often been the only white child in a playground filled with dark faces. Fulfilling the expectations of a good ersatz 19th century romantic novel set in the Caribbean (Caribbean Gothic?), it includes plenty of obeah magic and colorful patois, as well as a variety of characters who are mad, drunk, horny, racist, corrupt, or any combination thereof.

Ms Rhys is a bit of a romantic mystery herself. She published a few respected but obscure novels and short stories in the late 1920s and 1930's, when she was already in her forties, then disappeared from view for twenty years, until the BBC dramatized one of her works as a radio play in 1958. The popularity of the show sparked a renewed interest in her writing, so she sat down and worked for eight years on a new novel, Wide Sargasso Sea. This story was finally published in 1966, at which point she hadn't published anything meaningful in a quarter of a century and was almost as old as the universe itself. (She was 76, to be slightly more precise.)


  • Karina Lombard - everything, but pubic exposure is brief
  • Rowena King - everything
  • Nathaniel Parker - everything

I haven't read the book, but found the whole movie pointless and predictable and as boring as all get-out. Beautiful Karina Lombard couldn't act her way out of a Keanu Reeves lunchbox. She would be sorely tested to play the part of Karina Lombard in her own biopic, but her limited abilities were tested far beyond the edge of the envelope when she was cast as a Welsh/Irish/French woman, despite the fact that her ancestors seem to have been Native Americans, Southeast Asians, or Pacific Islanders, and she speaks with an indeterminate accent. I kept expecting the scriptwriter to work that into the plot somewhere, perhaps in the revelation of some family secret. At the very least, I expected somebody else in the cast to ask why that pretty Cambodian or Sioux woman was claiming to be Welsh. Nothing like that ever happened. They just ignored it. An odd touch.

It's a business-as-usual dudes-with-loose-blouses movie, but there is some good news for us guys:

DVD info from Amazon

  • widescreen anamorphic, in R-rated and NC-17 versions.

  • I felt that the transfer was a bit too dark

  • you don't have to go back and read or re-read Jane Eyre. This story stands alone. That's a big plus. Scientific studies have shown that most men would willingly give up a wild threesome with Kelly LeBrock and Jessica Alba if they can just avoid reading Jane Eyre.
  • there's sex, nudity, and then more sex and nudity, all directed by John Duigan, a celebrity nudity hall-of-famer. Duigan is the same guy who directed Sirens, the Citizen Kane of celebrity nudity. His Sirens cinematographer, Geoff Burton, also collaborated on Wide Sargasso Sea.


I would only like to add that this story could have been a much more enjoyable film had they stressed the lust, magic, etc, rather than dealing with people's emotions. It had two hot women, an exotic locale, magic, and two strong women fighting over the same man.

To cover the feelings and thoughts and emotions of the two principals, as well as to show the shifting point of view, they had to make extensive use of voice-over, which I always find a turn-off.

Great sex, good production values, but the story sucked.

The Critics Vote

  • General USA consensus: a wide diversity of opinions. Roger Ebert hailed it as a near masterpiece with a score of 3.5/4, while James Berardinelli deemed it mediocre and gave it a thumb down at 2/4.

The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary. IMDb voters score it 5.1/10 (Men 4.9, Women 7.5)
  • A financial failure. USA box office receipts were only $1.6 million. It went into theaters rated NC-17, thereby reducing distribution and attendance to minimal levels.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this is a C- (both reviewers). Scoop sums up, "It's attractive, but shallow, slow, boring, predictable. The sex and nudity, however, are great."

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