Rated R for all the sex. Like, if you were wondering if a movie from the '80s named Body Heat had any sex and nudity in it, it does. I mean, I suppose it seems moot to point out that it has language as well. There's also murder! And the destruction of property. But who cares about any of that? It's all about sex and sweating and sweaty sex. Just a heads up in case you were wondering "Is this about a fever?" Not the kind of fever you're thinking of. Intense R.
DIRECTOR: Lawrence Kasdan
I swear, it was for my class! Yeah, I knew about Body Heat before this moment. But it was never really on my list. In fact, now that I've seen it, I can only classify it as "Okay." It's Lawrence Kasdan directing. Do you understand how insane that is to me? I saw his name pop up in the opening credit and my jaw dropped. This is very not-Lawrence Kasdan. Sure, film scholars would completely disagree with me. But I can't divorce Lawrence Kasdan from the summer blockbuster. He's just that guy in my head. He is involved in the making of some of the biggest movies ever, so to see him do this tiny kinda/sorta remake of Double Indemnity only with a lot more sex is insane to me.
The '80s were so unnecessarily sexy. I know. This isn't adolescent Tim, who probably would have been destroyed by this movie. This is happily married Tim who has three kids and gets a little sleepy if he eats a carb. The first sexual act, I gave my wife the eyebrows. We giggled and then settled in for a lot more of the same. No eyebrows...just a lot of sex. I'm going to attack this movie pretty hard, considering that I left thinking that the movie is halfway decent. But I want to comment on how Body Heat may have been instrumental in the lazy sexual thriller. Double Indemnity is the same story. I don't think anyone, including Kasdan would deny that idea. Spider Woman traps man in a web of sexuality to convince him to kill her husband. With Body Heat, Kathleen Turner's character (whom I refer to as "Kathleen Turner" because of the questionable naming situation within the movie) is a lot more sexually aggressive than Phyllis, mainly because this is made in the '80s. But Double Indemnity, because it had to keep its sexuality in check, had to do all this other stuff to compensate for the time that would be otherwise occupied by people having sex on screen.
Body Heat, because it's 1981 and my parents' generation clearly were a bunch of horndogs, were okay with constantly filling the screen with sex. I am going to stop virtue signaling for a second and get off my high horse. From an artistic perspective, it's exciting to know that the film is in a generation that can say what it wants to say without having to tip toe around the film. When Barbra Stanwyck's feet are showing in Double Indemnity, it winked at the camera and titillated audiences just enough. But I'm sure Billy Wilder felt like he had to make sacrifices in the name of censorship. Body Heat kind of reads as an alternative history, playing out what Wilder might had wanted to do had he been granted the creative freedom to do so. But so much of the real estate of the movie is the two characters having sex. Inadvertently, despite that I kind of respect Kasdan as a director in this, he establishes a formula for the sexual thriller. Body Heat is pretty bare bones in terms of beats. There's the seduction, the murder plot, the murder itself, the revelation, and the betrayal. But really, if I was to put all of that into a pie chart, the majority of that real estate would go towards the seduction. At one point, there's an element of "We get it. They're sleeping together and it's very warm outside."
It's probably one of the more memorable scenes in the movie, but it was a bit much for me. Again, I'm going to go into spoiler territory, so I apologize for that. The entire premise is that Kathleen Turner is seducing Ned from the word "go." The first time she's on screen, she's already deep into her plan. There's a real plausibility thing going on that we kind of see in movies like Skyfall or The Dark Knight where the villain is just too good at everything. Her big plan is to seduce Ned (HIS NAME IS NED!) and get him to kill her husband. There's a lot of loose ends in this plan that I do not care for. But let's assume that the plan starts going off without a hitch. She has to allure him so much so that this serial philanderer keeps coming back and that he needs her. (Why go after a type that hates staying with a woman?) She plays so hard to get that he takes a chair and breaks into the house. This is all part of her plan. She locks him out and stares at him until he makes his move. It's super passionate and sexy...but also super impractical? The point is to both seduce him and not to let anyone know that there's an affair going on. I know the husband is only out there once a week, but your glass guy is so on top of things that you can afford to have a giant hole in your house and a bill for glass repair? It's sexy, but stupid. This all ties into the idea that sexy covers up for stupid. I am embarrassed to make this leap, but I feel like Body Heat has more in common with Species than it does with Double Indemnity, at least tonally.
But Body Heat isn't a dumb movie and it isn't the first movie to really try the plausibility factor for how far a character would go to get what she wants. I kind of love what the ending does for the movie. I'm going to complain about one thing with the ending, but I'll try to steer the ship back. The ending sees Ned figure out the scheme. The boathouse is rigged to explode and Kathleen Turner fakes her own death. But also, she really didn't plan to fake her own death. She planned that Ned was going to walk into the boathouse and the corpse of her friend and Ned would be found as a joint suicide or accident or whatever. When she blows up the boathouse, how does she survive? Besides the fact that she got close enough to detonate the boathouse, did she have a boat? Did she swim somewhere? It's very much in the same ballpark as the door through the glass, but I digress. I do love that she gets away with everything. Classic film noir always had crime being punished. From Ned's perspective, he is punished for his crime. But because Kathleen Turner gets away with it, it creates something very different. Her escape leads to the idea of the sexual boogeyman. It's an idea that's explored a few times in cinema history. When it is done well, like it is in Body Heat, it's dynamite. Her escape and loose ends kind of makes the story like a bedtime morality tale. We've seen stuff like this in Keyser Soze in The Usual Suspects. It implies that Kathleen Turner is out there and will do this again. She is so many steps ahead of every character that the only way to prevent what has happened happening to you is to keep it in your pants. It's Jason Voorhees, only way less blood.
It's a haunting idea, this almost omniscient villain. Yeah, we're all sitting here thinking "Malarky". I'm actually probably putting words in other people's mouths. The other people in my class were very cool with these perfect plans coming about. While I would have loved a bit more crafting when it came to generating these plans, I do like the effect of it all. Ned, bearded and communicating his theories at the end, is a satisfying end that is absolutely terrifying. It's a hard ending to pull off because, ultimately, Ned does deserve his fate. He did murder someone in cold blood and for selfish reasons. But we also know that this was the plan all along. Ned embodies both the role of criminal and victim. He is worthy of sympathy, but a lack of punishment for his misdeeds is a miscarriage of justice. It's a pretty great ending.
The only problem with the movie, for me, is that it is only about fifteen minutes worth of actual storytelling. The lion's share of the movie is the sexuality. We really only need one sex scene in the film to really tell the story. Normally, you could argue against me saying that the sex stuff is really necessary. But because it is a spiritual remake of Double Indemnity, we know that there's so much more that could be explored. Ned, as a patsy, makes him a shallow character throughout. It's actually pretty silly that Ned vocalizes that he wants to kill Kathleen Turner's husband because he doesn't really have that built into his character up to that point. But Ned almost doesn't need to be well developed, despite the fact that he's a protagonist. The entire movie is about how he is a pawn and that's exactly how he's portrayed throughout the film.
As much as I dunk on this movie, it's objectively pretty genius. Yeah, I whine because I can. I won't watch it if I don't have to, but that's because I'm happily married and softcore sexuality seems odd to me in films now. Also, there's a chance my wife might be reading this and I want to score some points.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.