Bad Influence (1990)
Director: Curtis Hanson
Director: Bob Swaim
…Or maybe never noticed.
My “entertainment budget” these days is about ten bucks a month…in the good months.
This month I went for a cheap two-fer DVD on Amazon that was some sort of Rob Lowe pack. I wanted to catch up with 1990’s Bad Influence again in the wake of Curtis Hanson’s recent demise and I had a sort of fond-twitch response to the memory of Meg Tilly in 1988’s Masquerade so I opted for the cheap packaging (no extras and so forth) and the two dollars I saved by buying them on one disc.
It turned out to be a good deal and a good decision. What with dark days ahead (they’re coming, no matter who or what we “vote” for next month, I predict this knowing no one will remember if it turns out otherwise and I’ll be able to remind everyone if I’m right), I found it oddly comforting to be reminded that, in the days when it was first obvious that Reaganomics were never going away (late eighties or so), the spirit of decline was already seeping into the air caught by these two oddly effective thrillers.
As for what I forgot…With Hanson’s film, it was his sense of sin, a quality almost unheard of in modern America or Hollywood filmmaking of any era. James Spader’s nebbish descends readily into Rob Lowe’s artfully arranged hell because he doesn’t want the things he’s supposed to want…or doesn’t want them enough.
Or thinks he doesn’t.
It’s never made obvious so there’s a lot of undercurrent for a thriller to carry. Plus, Spader was in early days.
He has the gravitas, though–the innate ability to portray modern life as, above all, soul-numbing. I still didn’t quite catch Lowe’s reasoning for picking Spader from the bunch. He gives one–somebody paid him to. But who it was evaded me. Maybe I’ll catch it next time. Because there will definitely be a next time, if only to relive Lowe’s “I’m sorry!” which is delivered in the exact tone you would expect from a modern pol, if one were ever trapped like a rat and forced to admit he/she had left some bodies lying around.
Which brings me to what I had forgotten (or never noticed) about Masquerade….
…which is that, while it’s a decent enough thriller, the real reason to watch is Meg Tilly’s performance as a young woman whose beauty and wealth are exceeded only by her emotional vulnerability. That’s not an easy sell but she’s fine and convincing all around and there’s one truly remarkable scene where she actually acts during an extended sex scene of the sort that, even now, is almost always played as imitation porn. There’s no dialogue in the scene so she has to convey the character’s bottomless well of emotional need through nothing more than heavy breathing.
After that, I really, really didn’t want her to die, and I really, really didn’t remember whether she did. It’s to the film’s credit, and hers, that it’s an open question, even if the other twists and turns produced no surprises to either memory or the present.