This post is part of The Best Hitchcock Movies (That Hitchcock Never Made) Blogathon, running from July 7th through July 13th, 2012.
Once upon a time, Lawrence Kasdan decided to basically remake Double Indemnity except with more bathtub sex, window-breaking, and hideous moustaches and then to so subtly call this affair Body Heat. Several other directors soon followed suit, and thus the ‘80s and ‘90s became the era of the erotic thriller.
I don’t know exactly what it was that about this particular time that made the movie soil so fertile for this sort of thing—certainly the fashion industry decided to harken back to the Golden Age for inspiration, and politics started to conservatize itself, as well. Maybe everybody was tired of the existential cowboys and long hair and drugs that peppered the ‘60s and ‘70s. Whatever the case, filmmakers used the tropes that Hitchcock and various and sundry noir directors had perfected to create equal parts glistening and grimy sex thrillers—perhaps thinking they were making movies the way Hitchcock would’ve if he could’ve shown more skin.
Anyway, I’ve chosen Final Analysis for this Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon–an inspired and inspiring little number cooked up by DorianTB and Becky. However, I must admit something: This blogathon is all about the best Hitchcock films Hitchcock didn’t make, yet this film is probably not included on any “best of” lists (certainly none of mine). But because it strives with all its heart to be Hitchcockian, and it’s rather fun, I chose it anyway. With that, here’s a summary to get us started. And, of course, spoilers, subjectivity, and slight snark abound.
Final Analysis is a 1992 extravaganza that stars Richard Gere as a (supposedly) credible, reliable, compassionate psychiatrist whose client, Uma Thurman, is afraid of commitment and has been having weird dreams about her childhood (flowers and house fires and the like). Richard Gere establishes himself as someone bad things will happen to because he utters this ominous foreshadowing line:
I look at people’s thoughts, try to figure out what they really mean. You do this enough, after a while, people stop surprising you. I just want to be surprised.
Kim Basinger, Uma Thurman’s movie sister, shows up to talk to Richard Gere. He wants to know if she can shed any light on Uma Thurman’s childhood. Of course, the only thing she sheds is her clothes (zing!) when she seduces Richard Gere posthaste.
Kim Basinger’s married to Eric Roberts, who’s a sadistic gangster. And she has a bizarre movie disease in which she goes crazy if she drinks one drop of liquor—which is the exact same movie disease Kim Basinger has in Blind Date with Bruce Willis. She kills her husband while intoxicated and then the movie turns into a courtroom drama for a while as Richard Gere tries to get her exhonerated on the grounds that she was temporarily insane or whatever–because that’s his suspiciously specific specialty.
But while she’s in jail, that foreshadowing comes home to roost and the audience gets to see that Richard Gere has not been able to read Kim’s thoughts at all: This is all a big set up, and she’s trying to frame Richard Gere for the murder so she can get a bunch of insurance money. And Uma Thurman’s in on it, which Richard Gere discovers because the recurring dreams are straight outta Freud’s writings!
A million twists ensue involving the murder weapon (a stupid dumbbell Kim Basinger carried in her purse for protection that she then used to kill her husband and now has hidden in a lockbox so she can frame Richard Gere because he touched it once and got his finger prints all over it).
So then Kim Basigner gets out to tie up loose ends through a crazy, bad-hair-related plot device in which Uma Thurman takes her place at the mental hospital (where she was put because she’s kinda insane instead of a straight up murderess).
And of course everything has to come to a head at the deserted light house on a craggy precipice where Richard Gere and Kim Basinger had previously gone on a date–except now it’s in the middle of a storm that happens to produce awesome noir lighting.
Kim Basinger reveals that she burnt down the family house to kill her bad dad, and then Richard Gere and his grizzled cop friend kill her.
So with an introduction and summary under our belts, let’s go to my analysis of Final Analysis. I’ve compiled a list of what I look for in a Hitchcock movie (in order of importance) and how Final Analysis does in its quest to be Hitcockian.
#1 Hitchcock Thing: Atmosphere/Straight Up Style
How does one know one is watching a Hitchcock movie? Because it feels like one. Duh. It’s got shadowy landscapes and an overblown score and just a sense of doom about it, not to mention long shots and all those technical cinematic things that I don’t know nearly enough about that I always skim over that blogs always talk about.
How Final Analysis Handles It: This film takes pains to feel like a Hitchcock movie. We’ve got opening credits accompanied by SO MUCH crazy orchestral music and weird symbolism and dream-like stuff (à la the Dali dream sequence in Spellbound). We’ve got good lighting and some claustrophobic scenes. The movie looks pretty sumptuous and feels slick and scary.
#2 Hitchcock Thing: Slow-burning Suspense
One thing that I always forget about when I go to watch a Hitchcock movie (rather than another mystery-type movie) is that he takes his time to build and build. Psycho takes forever to get to any knives vigorously penetrating soft, moist flesh; Vertigo ruminates for a long time on stuff other than falling down stairs; Stage Fright has a Marlene Dietrich musical number stuck in among the amateur detecting and deaths by curtains.
How Final Analysis Handles It: It starts out pretty creepy then has an episode of Law and Order in the middle of it then gets back to fiery deaths. But it takes a full 2.5 hours!
#3a Hitchcock Thing: Slick Villain
Hitchcock’s physically attractive villains probably outnumber his unattractive villains. And they’re often smart and charismatic, to boot.
How Final Analysis Handles It: As the villain (and Hitchcock-ish icy blonde), Kim Basinger does an ok job. She’s kind of intriguing, and she’s pretty, but at baseline, she’s still Kim Basinger—breathy and limply permed and one-facial-expressioned Kim Basinger. However, she looks pretty darn good when you put her up against Richard Gere—who is, for my money, only one notch less sleazy and unappealing than Michael Douglas.
#3b Hitchcock Thing: Psychology
Freudian psychology pops up (zing!) all the time—most notably in Spellbound and Psycho, of course, but in varying degrees in others, as well.
How Final Analysis Handles It: Well, the main character’s a psychiatrist and what motivates the female characters are vague childhood traumas uncovered by the talking cure.
#4 Hitchcock Thing: Gothic Trappings (Doubles, Foreshadowing, Symbols, Decaying Ancestral Homes, etc.)
Rebecca stands as Hitchcock’s most overtly gothic work, but there’s so many doppelgangers and hereditary curses in the likes of Shadow of a Doubt and Stage Fright and Vertigo that I always think of these elements as Hitchcockian. And so much symbolism is everywhere, of course, especially in Psycho.
How Final Analysis Handles It: My favorite part of the movie is that the two sisters are working together as one unit and playing each other’s roles at different times. But I have a very soft spot in my heart for doppelgangers. Additionally, I love the opening title sequence, which all seems at once to be a visual summary of the movie and a metaphor for female sexuality (watery explosions of flaming vases of flowers? The feminist poetry writes itself.).
With my Hitchcock criteria, Final Analysis receives a 3.4 GPA on a 4.0 scale.
That’s not to say you should go out and rent this film. It kinda sucks, in all actuality–mostly because of the uneven tone (sometimes it knows it’s preposterous; sometimes it thinks it’s high art), its characters (who are all pretty roundly d-bags with sketchy motivation), and its casting (once again, Richard Gere=gross/worst; Kim Basinger=vapid).
What it has going for it is the Hitchcock. The rest is more like Hitchschlock (zing!).