If you had caught The Last Seduction in 1994 -- after it unsuccessfully toured the festival circuit, played on cable, was finally picked up by a distributor, and won raves -- you might have thought this: "Linda Fiorentino will be our Lauren Bacall. A Bacall for the '90s and the aughts. A post-feminism cinevixen to lead us into temptation for years to come."
Didn't quite happen that way. But after a recent viewing of Seduction, I thought, "Why the hell not?" Fiorentino plays Bridget Gregory -- deadlier than Stanwyck's Phyllis Dietrichson and more calculating than Stone's Catherine Trammel. In terms of blind ambition, ruthlessness and lethal sexuality (and the ability to disguise all three), only Kathleen Turner's Matty Walker approaches Bridget Gregory, though no one has subsequently challenged her for the crown. How come we haven't had a memorable femme fatale in the past decade, especially now that "sex sells" has become more of an institution than a cultural vagary? (I happen to think Brian De Palma's 2002 eponymous homage is a great movie, but it certainly does not have an effective dangerous woman as its axis.)
Where art thou, dangerous ladies of the silver screen? What happened to sophisticated sexual subterfuge?
The point is: Linda, come back. Take the torch from Bacall already. Your voice is a wonderful riff on Bacall's playful huskiness. Like Bacall, you know how to hold and smoke a cigarette. You are as beautiful as Bacall, and as threatening to masculinity (and therefore to the medium of film itself). The camera loves you, and you love how the camera loves you. But you haven't made a movie in four years, and you haven't made an impression in 12. You are 45 now. What's the hold up? Here are suggestions to start the reclamation of your rightful place in filmdom:
1. If your absence from the spotlight is not by choice, start at square one with a fellow Hollywood outsider: chauvinist writer-director James Toback, who would probably love to "work" with you. If he can get some zip out of Neve Campbell, I'm sure the two of you could whip up some mean onscreen fireworks. I'd expect nothing else from a fiercely independent woman and a fiercely domineering man.
2. Ease yourself back into the biz with a smart TV show. Perhaps a cop drama, or something fringe-y on HBO or Showtime. Get hooked up with a Sorkin or a Bochco or a Milch or a David E. Kelley, someone who can write snappy lines deserving of you. Think of what fellow fortysomething Kyra Sedgwick is doing with The Closer.
3. Hell, actually do a movie with Bacall. She's still working. Get a script about a femme fatale mother-daughter team. I can't imagine how thrilling it would be to see the two of you in action, sharing the same frame. Call it Flared Eyes & Vodka Gimlets:
LAUREN: "You know how to whistle, don't you, dear?"
LINDA: (stubbing cigarette on Lauren's forearm) "F*ck off, mother, he's mine."
Upcoming posts: Why you should be watching Boston Legal. How Broadway (and the Tonys) handle Julia. X-Men: The Last Stand or the last straw?