Saturday, December 29, 2012

Movie – The Last Seduction (1994)

The first time I heard about the movie The Last Seduction was in relation to the controversy over lead actress Linda Fiorentino being declared ineligible for being nominated for an Oscar.  (More on that below.)  I learned that the film was a modern noir, and even though I like that genre, for whatever reason I never got around to seeing it.  I’d always put it on the “maybe later” mental list of movies to watch.  Flash forward to just a few years ago and I decided that enough was enough and I should see this.  I’m glad I did because I really enjoyed the movie and Fiorentino’s performance was ferocious in it.

While this film has been slotted into the “noir” category, it has one thing that sets it quite a bit apart from most movies in that genre: instead of being told from the perspective of the man who gets manipulated by the femme fatale, it’s the femme fatale who is the main character.  We see things from her perspective.

Bridget Gregory (Fiorentino) steals $700,000 from her husband Clay (Bill Pullman), who is a big time drug dealer.  She hits the road and ends up in small town USA.  The guys in the bar she starts to frequent there have never seen anything like her.  She’s the one with all the power and they only get as far with her as she feels like letting them get.  She meets Mike (Peter Berg) and for reasons unfathomable at first, she seems to take a liking to him.  She decides to stay in town and gets an office job at the company Mike works for.

In the meantime Clay didn’t just shrug his shoulders when his wife took off with a large sum of money, which as it turns out, wasn’t even his.  The man whose money it actually was makes Clay understand that he’d really better get it back.  Clay hires a private detective and we can’t tell if Clay’s more desperate to find Bridget so he can get the money back, or so he can exact the worst revenge imaginably once he gets his hands on her.

The office job Bridget is at doesn’t hold her interest for long.  She is soon running a scam involving Mike and we finally start to understand what she sees in him – he’s really dumb.  Soon Mike is in way over his head, and Clay is starting to close in on both of them.  Can Mike stop Clay?  What would happen if Clay and Mike were to meet and instead of killing each other, they compared notes?

Linda Fiorentino gives a powerful performance in this film.  She is the main reason to see it.  Her character is fearless and she is easily in control of most situations she is in.  (Note that I wrote “most”.)  There was a lot of Oscar buzz surrounding her performance.  She seemed like a lock to at least get a nomination, and maybe even a win.  It was at that point that the Academy stepped in and declared her ineligible to be nominated for Best Actress.

It turns out that this movie was first shown at film festivals, but could not find an official distribution deal.  An agreement with HBO had already been signed and it said that the movie would be broadcast on a certain date, regardless of whether the film had found a distributor or not.  The deadline came and HBO aired the movie.  It got immediate strong buzz and the movie was quickly snapped up by a studio.  It was then released wide into theaters.  Unfortunately, the Academy declared that the film festivals didn’t count in regards to the movie being shown first in theaters.  That meant its first showing, according to the Academy anyway, was on HBO.  Since movies that are broadcast first don’t qualify for Oscars, this meant that Fiorentino was similarly ineligible.

The studio tried to appeal Fiorentino’s case, but the Academy held firm.  Movies that are self-distributed and show in a single theater (like The Room) are completely eligible for Oscars, but movies that compete at various film festivals without being distributed are not.  By the way, the Oscar for Best Actress that year ended up going to Jessica Lange for Blue Sky – a movie that had been filmed three years earlier, then shelved, then finally given a very limited release in theaters before being shown on cable.

If you’ve ever wanted to see a noir from the perspective of the tough femme fatale, then The Last Seduction is the film for you.  While the lead character is not necessarily likable, she is still very interesting to watch.  I highly recommend this film.

Chip’s Rating: 4 out of 5 stars



  1. This was definitely one of the most underrated films of the 1990s. I don't know why Linda Fiorentino didn't go big. She ruled in this film and I think she should've been nominated and won instead of Jessica Lange.

    1. I haven't seen Lange's performance, so I can't say for sure that Fiorentino should have won, but it would take a helluva performance from Lange to make me believe she was better.

      I think after Fiorentino wasn't brought back for Men in Black II that rumors started circulating about her and Jones clashing on the first one and that the filmmakers would only bring one back (and of course they are going to go with the bigger box office clout in Jones.) Before that she reportedly trashed her film Dogma during promotional junkets. Rightly or wrongly, she gained a reputation for someone who was difficult to deal with both on and off the set. And in Hollywood, reputation is everything and truth takes a back seat. She only made a couple more movies after Dogma, then she basically stopped acting.

  2. I like so much that you include these little historical anecdotes and trivia. I haven't seen this one, so I skipped your plot stuff, but I was interested to read about howtheAcademydeemed a performance ineligible. They are weird, sometimes.

    1. "I like so much that you include these little historical anecdotes and trivia."

      Thanks. I'm usually interested in trivia, but I sometimes wonder if it bores the people that read the posts.

      The Academy is not only weird, they are also very inconsistent. Just last year two of the five nominated animated features were actually from back in 2010, and the animated feature The Adventures of Tin Tin, which opened in December 2011, was declared not eligible. This despite the fact that their qualifying range for regular features is Jan 1 to Dec 31.

  3. Never heard that about Fiorentino but yeah love this film. I knew she was a bit of a bitch from Kevin Smith commentaries though. A real shame as in the early 90s there seemed to be a lack of female acting talent.

    1. I gave up many years ago on trying to figure out why some people who appear to be "can't miss" acting prospects just disappear.