Is is possible to create a big, glossy sex fantasy that is so silly, it gives sex a bad name?
“Wild Orchid” (citywide), asks us to believe that star and debuting actress Carre Otis--the model from the Guess jeans ads--is a specialist in international law, hired on sight and whisked off to Rio de Janiero for a complex business deal that seems to involve sex with most of the principals.
It asks us to believe that Mickey Rourke--sporting a wardrobe that consists mostly of black sports coat over bare chest, one gold earring and numerous layers of dark pancake makeup--is an international entrepreneur trying to overcome a deprived youth as the stuttering child of Pittsburgh proles. It asks us to believe that Jacqueline Bisset, as Claudia, takes business calls while dancing the frug and has tremendous difficulties getting Rourke into bed. It asks us to believe. . . . Well, why go on?
This movie makes sexual adventurism seems so ludicrous, that it might have been made by Puritans in disguise, trying to portray hedonists as a pack of fatheads. Director-writer Zalman King, who along with collaborator-wife Patricia Louisiana Knop, also wrote “8 1/2 Weeks” for Adrian Lyne, is obviously trying for something lusciously steamy and seamy. But he doesn’t have swank-master Lyne’s high-gloss, back-lit, dry-ice skills. The movie is like a piece of hard-core pornography in which most of the sex scenes have been removed, softened or turned into perfume commercials--and in which only the dopey connecting expository scenes are left.
King tries not to miss a trick. To show that his characters are involved in artifice and deceit, he has them put on fancy masks. To show that they should be having a good time but aren’t, he sets the movie during carnival time. To show that he’s a feminist at heart, he has Bisset and Otis dress up as men. To show that he hasn’t forgotten audiences, he has the blouse or top ripped off nearly every actress in the film, except Bisset, who does her bit in a dry T-shirt.
To show he reads the newspaper he throws in the lambada, and to show he watches art films he casts Assumpta Serna, from “Matador.” She plays the role of her career: a frigid wife who gets cured after a drunken sailor tears her top off.
If “Wild Orchid” (MPAA rated R for sex and language) were a little bit sillier, it might classify as a minor classic of howling camp. As it is, the movie is pseudo-swanky, chic and sappy.