Picks and Pans Review: Wild Orchid

updated 05/14/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/14/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Mickey Rourke, Jacqueline Bisset, Carré Otis

Like any self-disrespecting pornographic film, Wild Orchid has a tantalizing moment or two amidst droning eons of idiotic behavior, dopey dialogue and foolish acting.

Its sex scenes are plentiful, if soft-core. They hardly merit the ratings controversy they've engendered, though. There's nothing in this film any mildly devoted Bo Derek fan hasn't seen 28 or 29 times already.

The plot involves Bisset, as an ostentatiously hotshot businesswoman, rushing from New York City to Rio to close a big deal, dragging along just-hired corporate lawyer Otis. When they get there, they run into Rourke, a megarich Symbol of Ennui or Something. Rourke is about as seductive (and mobile) as a mulberry bush, but Bisset has a long-standing obsession with him, and Otis chimes right in during those odd moments when she's not attending cartoonishly orgiastic get-togethers.

As career moves go, Otis, a model best known for jeans commercials, is better off here than she might be dancing on the bar at the local Pussycat Lounge. Not by much, however. By about the nine-minute mark, she has gone through all her expressions suggesting sexual ecstasy and is reduced to making faces as if she's holding her breath.

By avoiding taking her clothes off, Bisset maintains some dignity, but only a shred, since her character acts unconvincingly vulgar, snarling orders at Otis like, "Put on some goddamn lipstick!"

Rourke, the most fatuous and phlegmatic of modern actors, in a way was the ideal choice to play this idle role. He trots out his entire arsenal of acting moves—the ironic smirk and the pitiable grimace. His face has a mottled look, as if he didn't handle his tan well or is the victim of a botched varnish job. Seemingly as total a voyeur as James Spader was in sex, lies, and videotape, he stays out of the sexual way until the very end. Then he lays on Otis a few lovemaking techniques he seems to have picked up by watching pro wrestling.

But then almost all the love scenes have been designed with their photogenic possibilities, not the comfort and enjoyment of the participants, in mind. (A man ripping off a woman's dress seems to be considered an especially tender form of foreplay.)

All this is backed by a sound track that includes sensuous, Brazilian-inflected music, as well as cello-ish monotones that sound like the aural equivalent of a toothache.

The film's director, Zalman King, co-wrote 9½ Weeks, another tribute to Rourke's countercharisma. That movie had a perverse originality at least. In this case clichés, visual and verbal, pour off the screen like water off a turkey's back. King's opening Rio shot is a 360-degree view of the Christ the Redeemer statue, which has been in so many movies set in Brazil the scene seems to be a joke. Nope. There are lots of quick-cut shots of Carnival too. King even dissolves from a sex scene to crashing surf.

The script, by King and his wife, Patricia Louisianna Knop, is no more original. When Otis, frustrated by Rourke's hands-off policy, unbuttons her shirt and quiveringly says to him, "Just reach out and touch me," you don't know if Rourke is going to swoon or ask her what her area code is.

In another hilarious exchange, Otis and Rourke are at an exotic restaurant where she, breathing heavily enough to fog up the front windows, gasps, "It must be the jet lag. My emotions keep getting away from me." He responds in pontifical mode, "That's OK. We all have to get away from ourselves to find ourselves."

Good point, Mick. Those people in line to see this film might consider whether they'd be more likely to find themselves, oh, in a slush cone over at the convenience store or shopping for lawn furniture. (R)

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