Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Femme Fatale (2002) - Rebecca Romijn Turns Heads

Femme Fatale 2002 Film Poster
"Femme Fatale" (2002).
Rebecca Romijn was a top French fashion model who decided to give acting a whirl. She started out with a few parts in television, then got her big break as Mystique in "X-Men" (2000). She followed that up with this Epsilon Motion Pictures/Quinta Communications film. "Femme Fatale" (2002) is a typical Brian De Palma film, with all sorts of murky relationships, confused identities and people double-crossing each other. If you like De Palma films, this is one of his best, and it stands out from the pack because of its awesome seduction scenes.

Femme Fatale 2002 Film Poster
Rebecca Romijn as Laure Ash.
Rebecca Romijn plays Laure Ash, an itinerant thief who stages a diamond heist at the Cannes film festival. To pull it off, she seduces Veronica (Rie Rasmussen), an absolutely stunning lady whose main attribute is that she is wearing an expensive bra (no, I'm not kidding, that is the plot, to steal the bra). It all happens in the event's ladies room, while Veronica's hovering security has to wait outside. It is a spectacular scene, with Romijn gradually removing Veronica's jewelry and dropping it on the floor, where it is scooped up and replaced with cheap copies by "Black Tie" (Eriq Ebouaney) and Racine (Edouard Montrouge). Afterward, carrying out the real items, Laure leaves her accomplices in the lurch and takes off on her own to Paris.

Femme Fatale 2002 Film Poster

While in Paris, Laure has the good fortune to be mistaken for Lily, a missing girl who looks just like her. Lily is emotionally unstable and eventually returns home, but Laure watches her commit suicide. Laure then takes on Lily's identity for good and leaves for America.

Laure, now officially Lily, marries Bruce Watts (Peter Coyote), who is the new US ambassador to France. A photographer, Nicholas Bardo (Antonio Banderas), takes her picture, which gets a lot of publicity. Her old accomplices kill Veronica, but while doing so recognize Laure from Bardo's picture. Laure, aware that Black Tie and Racine are on to her, seduces Bardo and has him stage a fake kidnapping of her. Bardo, however, double-crosses her, ruining the kidnapping scheme, and in retaliation, Laure kills both him and her husband Bruce. Black Tie and Racine then appear and throw Laure off a bridge, but she may or may not be dead, and things may or may not be what they appear...

Femme Fatale 2002 Film Poster
Antonio Banderas in "Femme Fatale."
This has become a cult film, but it really requires you to pay attention closely. There are twists at the end which I will not give away, but suffice to say that if you aren't fully engaged, it will all become just a confusing series of "is this real, or is it just a dream, and what's up with that truck?" That is not to belittle the film, just to point out that this is not casual viewing. Even if you are paying attention, it can be difficult to catch on right away to what is actually going on.

Femme Fatale 2002 Film Poster
Director Brian de Palma, Rebecca Romijn, and Antonio Banderas.
However, the plot (which, even after unraveled at the end, still doesn't make complete sense) is secondary. Fans know that is often the case in De Palma films (of which my favorite is the mystery "Dressed to Kill" (1980), which is memorable just because of Michael Caine's wacky performance). The character oddity and eccentric twists are what entertain, not "was she only dreaming" or "who really did it" and so on. The average movie-goers primary reason to see this film now is to catch Rebecca Romijn at the height of her beauty.

Romijn is just spectacular, and she has no problems simulating sex with men or women. At one point she gets thrown into river, naked and very artfully filmed (maybe a body double). Let's just say she's a very good sport (as she proved with her X-Men bikini outfit). The seduction scene at the beginning of the film is just incendiary and bears repeated viewings if you like that sort of thing. After that, the film undeniably lags, and if you watch only the first twenty minutes you get the cream. It does pick up a bit when Laure seduces Bardo, then again tails off into murky alternative-reality scenarios.

Femme Fatale 2002 Film Poster
Rebecca Romijn and Antonio Banderas in "Femme Fatale."
This is not high cinema. The reason you don't hear anything about this film is that it bombed at the box office despite Ms. Romijn's (she was Romijn-Stamos at the time, divorcing John a few years later) best efforts. You would have thought that at least the French would have liked the film, but perhaps they thought it a bit much having an actress with a California surfer-girl look playing a sophisticated French criminal. Or, it simply may have been too confusing for audiences to follow (and confusing it most definitely is). For the film to work, you have to care about the characters, and nobody in this is particularly sympathetic. That really is neither here nor there in terms of whether you will like the film - I can tell you that it occupies a proud place in my film library.

Here's the deal: decide if you like truly exquisite scenes of beautiful people in beautiful settings. Similar films in that regard (though they are not mystery/thrillers like this one) include "The Hot Spot" with Jennifer Connelly, "Stealing Beauty" with Liv Tyler, "Two Moon Junction" with Sherilyn Fenn, and "The Dreamers" with Eva Green. Fans of beautiful films full of lovely people definitely should check this one out, all others are likely to be bored silly.


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