Monday, June 26, 2017

Sliver Me Timbers

Ah, the early '90s, a time when R-rated thrillers were a thing, Billy Baldwin was considered a sexy thing, and Joe Esztrerhaus could make millions of dollars by writing R-rated thrillers that let Billy Baldwin tease the world with showing his thing. 

Quick Plot: Carly Norris is a successful book editor and unhappy divorcee. Things perk up when her application for a fancy modern high rise is accepted. The only catch? She's inheriting the apartment of a late lookalike who was either depressed enough to leap from the 23rd floor or unlucky enough to be murdered there.

The neighbors are an eclectic bunch: a lovably nosy old man quickly befriends Carly before dying alone in his shower. A coke-headed neighbor seems to flirt with the same men Carly fancies until she ends up murdered, possibly by one of them. The suspect list is small: either Jack Thompson (Tom Berenger), an impotent mystery novelist (whose impotence is mentioned about 17 times over the course of 100 minutes) or Zeke (William Baldwin before the goblin transformation), a hot young video game designer who also happens to own the building.

It doesn't take too long for Carly to fall hard for Zeke. Together, they work out, have load acrobatic sex, and disgust fellow diners at fancy restaurants by throwing lingerie back and forth.

They are pretty much as insufferable as they sound, only more boring.

Oh! But he's also a voyeur who has planted hidden cameras inside every apartment in his building.

And yet, he's still...really...boring.

Let's get the first problem out of the way: Billy Baldwin is sort of kind of playing the Sharon Stone Basic Instinct role, only he's no Sharon Stone. More tolerable than Stephen, and yet still a far, far cry from Alec, it's hard to ever feel much of anything for his Zeke. It's not entirely his fault. Director Philip Noyce introduces him as a sort of charming rogue, only to rather quickly turn him into a mildly obsessive creep (though the movie doesn't seem to see that itself) and maybe vicious killer, or maybe not, or maybe ...well, the truth is, by the very end of the movie, I have no idea what I'm supposed to think of him or what he did or didn't do.

Sharon Stone's Carly fares mildly better, but possibly only because if nothing else, her character is best friends with Colleen Camp's gloriously loud-talking Judy (WHY ISN'T THIS MOVIE ABOUT HER?). As I said way back with the slightly less dull Deadly Blessing, the woman has always had star power that any camera adores. She does her best with an absolute nothing of a role, but it's a shame that following Basic Instinct, this was the best she could get. 

Noyce doesn't make an incompetent film, but he sure does make a stupid one. While everything you'll probably read about Sliver will focus on its voyeuristic obsession, the film takes a full ONE HOUR AND TWENTY MINUTES before it becomes any real plot point. Worse, Sliver has no idea how to contextualize it in any way for its characters. Carly is disgusted when she discovers Zeke's habit for all of 60 seconds before she decides it's hot and something SHE'll be obsessed over until it becomes dirty and something she needs to make a grand statement against because huh? 

I won't get into the spoiler territory of the murder mysteries, only one (out of three) of which is officially solved (we're left wondering if one was an accident or murder, providing you remember anything that happens in this movie by the time you get done with it). The film is apparently very messily based on Ira Levin novel, which isn't surprisingly when you see that the screenplay comes from the pen of that sultan of class, Joe Eszterhas. Those looking for Showgirls levels of fun will be sorely disappointed.

Those looking for a heartbeat will be worried.

High Points
The only real saving grace of Sliver is its incredibly time stamped '90sness. Not only do we get the kind of darkly lit, partial-nudity containing sex scenes, but we're also gifted with choker necklaces, Pearl Jam references, and the very simple trick of having a character under 30 be a video game designer. Buy some Zima and have yourself one phat drinking game!

Low Points
Everything else?

Also, screw any movie that wastes the talents of the insanely wonderful Polly Walker, aka the underrated Rome's Atia and pre-Cersei Lannister evil goddess

Lessons Learned
Life is boring if you're not a dirty old man

Everybody has a telescope!

Women are usually not overly impressed when they first discover you've been filming them in the privacy of their apartment

If you don't want people to think that you're a murderer, wear something other than black ski caps when indoors

Oy. If you have a soft spot for sexy '90s thrillers, Sliver has a lot to offer. If you have standards for storytelling, Sliver is probably going to make you want to throw your underwear at the TV (not in a sexy way; more to make some kind of statement against VOYERISM or something). It's available to stream on Amazon Prime, and while I don't necessarily regret watching it (because I do not have standards when it comes to storytelling) I would never tell anyone I actually like to do so. It's stupid. But sometimes, that's okay (but seriously: this is stupid, and this is me speaking before the Jolly Rancher-spiked Zimas). 


  1. Gah!
    I was going to say that I'll cheerfully avoid this one but then it struck me that I'd already seen it.
    Almost expunged from memory... but not quite, might call for guzzling some more rum.

    1. For such a stupid movie, it really should be more memorable. Sigh. Slivery, slivery sigh.