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‘Body of Evidence’

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
January 15, 1993

 


Director:
Uli Edel
Cast:
Madonna;
Willem Dafoe;
Joe Mantegna;
Anne Archer;
Jurgen Prochnow
R
Under 17 restricted


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In"Body of Evidence," Madonna is the Body. In this steamy murder mystery, that corpus delectable is the suspected murder weapon. Seems the Material Girl is accused of hastening the death of an older lover afflicted with a heart condition. She used the Body. She used handcuffs, nipple clamps and videotape. She stood to gain $8 million from the old fella's will. District attorney Joe Mantegna feels she ought to be tried for murder.

But she really ought to be tried for impersonating Sharon Stone in "Basic Instinct." Or playing a second-rate Hitchcock mystery blonde -- she's even named Rebecca. She murmurs in a dreamlike, slightly entranced voice. She sucks her finger like a psychotic toddler. Lips parted, she talks about The Way Animals Make Love. She does naughty things in elevators and extremely bad things in underground parking lots. What she does with hot candle wax you don't normally see at Mass.

Ambulance-chasing defense attorney Willem Dafoe decides to represent the accused before finding out about her. Since he appears not to have read the script before appearing in this movie, his lack of caution makes sense. The best way to handle a woman who acts like Sharon Stone is to act like Michael Douglas in the same movie. He throws away all integrity, ditches his family and takes her wax.

"You're great when you get a big case," says Dafoe's wife, after a marital love session -- soon after Dafoe has become intrigued with Madonna.

The case proceeds by day, a pitched battle between Dafoe and Mantegna, presided over by dour (and very funny) judge Lillian Lehman. The witnesses, including Frank Langella, Jurgen Prochnow and the victim's mysterious secretary, Anne Archer, deliver their jigsaw pieces in the puzzle. Madonna watches breathlessly. The affair continues at night. Dafoe and Madonna explore new things to do with belts and broken glass -- usually in her impossibly expensive houseboat. Somehow, Dafoe finds the time to prepare his client's defense.

What do you say about this kind of movie? If you've seen "Jagged Edge," "Fatal Attraction" and all those hyped-up whodunits, you've essentially seen this before. The did-she-or-didn't-she? question hangs over the movie until the end. Dafoe hits moral rock bottom. The real truth comes out. It's ridiculous always, and sometimes goofy fun. Judge Lehman's exasperation at the sexually explicit case is amusing. Finally sick of the tittering court spectators, she yells, "Keep your rude mouths shut or get out of my courtroom!"

Strategic witness Archer is an unintentional scream. Early in the trial, she accuses Madonna of snorting cocaine. Asked by Dafoe why Archer didn't report this drug use to her late boss, Archer replies she wanted to keep her job. "That didn't include telling him that his girlfriend was a cokehead slut."

Good point.

As for Dafoe's unfortunate wife (Julianne Moore), she spends the entire movie being deceived ("Men lie," proclaims sibylline Madonna). After she finds out about her husband's treachery (huge burn marks on his chest, prolonged absences from the home), she stumbles after him and That Woman like a heartsick zombie. She bumps into Madonna in the ladies room. She sits catatonically in the courtroom. Then she shows up for the finale just in time for the final credits. In this predictable drama, she's the only one not ahead of the plot.

   
© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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