Synopsis: A San Francisco psychiatrist is treating an alluring patient for traumatic memories. In order to find out more about her trauma, she suggests that he speak to her sister that he begins a torrid affair with. One murder and a tricky courtroom case later, the psychiatrist feels the next victim may be him.
Stars: Richard Gere, Kim Basinger, Uma Thurman, Eric Roberts
Director: Phil Joanou
Running Length: 124 minutes
TMMM Score: (4.5/10)
Review: 1992 was big year for the steamy psychological thriller. It’s the year that Basic Instinct arrived on the scene and changed the way Hollywood and audiences looked at sex in cinema, not to mention Sharon Stone’s underwear. Arriving about four weeks before Basic Instinct, Final Analysis was another potboiler that involved that most seductive of moving pairings…a handsome leading man and a blonde bombshell. Twenty years later, the second pairing of Gere and Basinger (after 1986’s No Mercy) hasn’t aged too well and its plot holes now seem like Grand Canyon caverns.
On paper, one could see the allure of this film from all parties. With a tantalizing script by the then-hot screenwriter Wesley Strick (who penned the Cape Fear remake) and boasting two leads that were considered A-List it’s no wonder that Warner Brothers sunk a lot of money into this modern film noir concerning a psychiatrist that gets dangerously close to two sisters. If the end product didn’t end up quite on the list of classic 90’s thrillers, it still made a decent take at the box office until Basic Instinct was released and wiped it off that map.
I remember seeing this in the theaters with my dad (Wednesday nights were our movie nights and I was taken to quite a lot of movies that were beyond my years…thanks Dad!) and enjoying the thriller elements and courtroom drama. Never one to turn away from a courtroom mystery, my twelve year old brain reacted strongly to the tawdry details and dramatic courtroom revelations. Watching it now the court scenes are laughably implausible and strictly by the numbers – how anyone could take these scenes seriously is the biggest mystery.
Over time, I think movie thrillers have evolved into needing some air of plausibility to them. Audiences are too smart now to simply go along with what’s onscreen because the film tells them to. We’ve been too conditioned to vote with our hearts and our options are so vast that we don’t have time to waste on films that don’t treat us like the (mostly) smart and (mostly) cultured people we’ve become. Final Analysis suffers most because what its characters do simply can’t be explained with any logic and the end result is a series of “C’mon!”s or “Are you kidding me?”s.
Gere portrays one of the worst psychiatrists in movie history as he leaps into bed with Basinger, the sister of his trouble patient (Thurman). The time it takes between these two meeting, having a cup of coffee, and then heading to bed together takes up about ten minutes of screentime. Ethics be damned, the movie asks us to believe that as good as a doc as Gere is, he’d throw it all away for a night with a beautiful lady. The Gere squint is by now the stuff of movie legend and here he plays every scene as if he’s staring directly into the sun.
Basinger fares a bit better in her role that requires her to reveal slowly exactly what her motivations are. Basinger has always been a hit-or-miss actress – for each solid performance she’s given (her Oscar-winning role in L.A. Confidential notwithstanding) she’s turned up in some big turkeys. Here she whispers about 97% of her lines and is loudly shouting the F-word the other 3%. She’s married to a real abusive slimeball (Roberts) and when he winds up clobbered to death by Basinger (the victim of ‘pathological intoxication’ – it’s explanation is a real howler) it’s up to Gere to help her out. No really…it’s ALL up to Gere as he gathers his friends and colleagues to her defense/legal team despite knowing her for all of one week.
Sadly sidelined for most of the film is Thurman in a role that unfortunately seems to be there to add another femme fatale to the mix. Thurman was still relatively new and her quiet performance is equal parts sad and spooky as the film goes on. As an audience member, you can see Basinger’s actor brain working but Thurman remains a mystery throughout. It’s the best performance in the movie of then-Hollywood heavyweights.
The thrust of the movie is a series of red herrings, lighthouses, and movie trickery that doesn’t hold water when compared to other movies of its time. Director Joanu brings a certain style to the film and gives it an old fashioned look; however trying to make it seem Hitchcock-esque is never a wise move because you’re inviting people to recall better works by the master of suspense. Aside from Thurman’s performance, the other impressive contribution is an excellent jazzy score by George Fenton – it’s nicely dramatic and adds a lot to the atmosphere of the movie.
As far as 90’s thrillers go, Final Analysis isn’t quite howling bad nor is it particularly good. It’s worth it to see Gere before he started taking himself too seriously, Basinger before she started to have plastic surgery, and Thurman in one of her early roles that showed the promise of what was to come. It’s either going to provide a taut thriller experience for you or give you some nice laughs at the improbability of it all.