Exit to Eden
1994, R, 113 min. Directed by Garry Marshall. Starring Dana Delany, Paul Mercurio, Rosie O'Donnell, Dan Aykroyd, Hector Elizondo, Stuart Wilson, Iman.
REVIEWED By Robert Faires, Fri., Oct. 21, 1994
There's limburger, there's Roquefort, there's gorgonzola, and there's Exit to Eden. This new film from director Marshall (Beaches) is pure cheese, and stinky cheese at that. It's freely adapted -- very freely -- from the book by Anne Rice, and I think it's safe to say that Rice, who recently took out a gigantic ad in The New York Times praising Hollywood's treatment of her Interview With the Vampire, won't be taking such action here. Taking Marshall to court, maybe. For the director seizes her essentially, er, straight story of one man's immersion into S&M at an exotic pleasure resort and grafts onto it lame jokes, Benny Hill-type sex gags, a tired “undercover cop” plot, and enough TV clichés to keep Aaron Spelling in gravy for 20 years. It looks like Marshall sought to do for bondage what he did for prostitution in Pretty Woman, i.e., sugar it up to make it yum-yum tasty for the mythical middlebrow masses. Delany is part of the plan: use her wholesome looks and TV image as a China Beach heroine to sell John & Jane Public on the idea that the dominatrix-next-door is just a sweet young miss. And Delany's go-for-it performance almost makes it work. When she isn't having to indulge the script's taste for bathos, she exhibits a sly strength and ease with sexuality. But the rest of Marshall's sweetening ploy is horribly, horribly off. In making the tale “approachable for general audiences,” he flattens everything in it: character, emotion, sex. The pleasure resort has no eroticism, just buffed Baywatch bodies in skimpy outfits ripped off from the Bob Mackie Factory Outlet. Paul Mercurio, so passionate in Strictly Ballroom, can't work up anything beyond a goofy grin here, making his Elliot seem as deep as a ditch. The subplot of two cops (O'Donnell, Aykroyd) hitting Eden to catch a smuggler (Wilson) and his ruthless accomplice (Iman) relies solely -- and lazily -- on stock cop-show bits, down to a bang-bang ending so formulaic that Joe Mannix would be ashamed to use it. O'Donnell fires off wisecracks like an Uzi, but eventually even she sounds bored. Maybe she realized that no matter how you try, you can't disguise a really rank smell.