The genre of erotic thriller is one of my favorites. Erotic thrillers might just be my favorite type of film actually – when done right that is. Films such as Basic Instinct, Wild Things, Fatal Attraction, Unfaithful, and this one are all able to craft a mysterious twisty narrative that hinges on steamy affairs. There’s a certain lesson of “if you play with fire you’re sure to get burned” or “caught in the spider’s web” that runs through films like this and to me, it’s cinema gold, it’s entertainment at its most interesting. Themes in films like this can also be extra frightening because they entertain things we’ve all fantasized about or wanted to do. Everyone has wanted to give in to a certain person, whether they’re committed to someone or not, everyone has been tempted to act on something they probably shouldn’t, so it makes the danger feel a little closer to home.
Kathleen Turner and William Hurt are our two lead players here. Both are incredibly talented acting heavyweights. I’ve always been a big fan of Turner because of her work in films such as Romancing the Stone, The Virgin Suicides, Serial Mom, and who could forget her voice work in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Turner is an absolute gem in this role; it was practically tailor made for her. Her look is very important to the plot and overall feel of the film. She’s stunning and has a certain glow about her. Yes, her makeup, hairstyling, and wardrobe is all important and they play a part in her look, but Turner’s expressionistic face and talent is what makes her the force she is here.
Then we have her male counterpart, William Hurt, who I must say I’m not as familiar with, but boy did he do a great job playing the Florida lawyer lured into temptation. Hurt has this sexy bachelor likability to him that is almost intoxicating. I liked the blunt nature of his character and the confidence he carries with him. It’s something that people who are interested in men, whether it be a straight woman or a gay man, are most likely attracted to. In the same way, Turner’s character is a mysterious tease… something I imagine those who are interested in woman find attractive.
Them being these types of characters makes for an electric, sexually intense chemistry that you believe. They start out playing a sort of cat and mouse game with her teasing him a bit and him being very persistent about wooing her. The dialogue used is so rich and straight forward and I love that the writers decided to create these roles this way. They needed to talk the way they do and behave the way they do in order for them to not only make an electric pair but also for the film’s details to work out. I love how my perception was ever shifting during this film. My view of this character would evolve as different revelations came to light and then the same would happen with another character as the film went on. This script is masterful at keeping the audience both guessing and ever invested in its characters.
That’s another crucial aspect of film writing that must be followed: keeping us invested in the characters you’ve provided us with, whether they’re good or bad. If characters change from either good to bad or bad to good, we still need to be interested, to track with them, or else the film is almost certainly doomed. If I don’t give a damn about the lead or supporting characters then your film is in some deep s--t. Thankfully with Body Heat, we don’t have that issue.
I love the pace of this film. Nothing feels overly rushed or too slow. There’s something to be said for giving the audience a proper introduction to the characters and building up both them and the plot in an organic fashion and that’s exactly what’s done here. We see things slowly shift towards danger and when we think we know what’s happening, we start to find that maybe we don’t. The thriller/crime aspect of the plot is handled with a delicious amount of mystery and throws in some great twists. Some people may not be who they say they are and may not be after what you think they’re after.
The noir style is used and played up here, much like certain films from the 40s and yes, some scenes are a tad overly dramatic, but it fits with the feel and you accept it. The one detail that doesn’t track with the classic neo-noir black and white films is the sexually graphic nature of the love scenes. I respect the choice to make these scenes intense and tantalizing because the nature of this affair is in fact intense and very lust driven. Yes, feelings do come into play as the affair progresses, but in the beginning, it was simply hey you look hot and I want you badly. Because of this, the sex scenes are realistic with lots of movement, sounds, and sweat. Portraying these encounters this way shows us just how intense the attraction is and how powerful lust and sex can be.
Body Heat is one of the best films ever made and it needs to be seen, especially by people who love film. Mesmerizing performances, powerful chemistry, and a masterfully written script with twists and turns make this erotic thriller an absolute must see!