Rockin' Robin's flight

Missing the potential in its plot

Published: Jan 26 2015, 01:01:am

Thursday, March 10, 1988.
AND GOD CREATED WOMAN. Written by R.J. Stewart. Music by Thomas Chase and Steve Rucker. Directed by Roger Vadim.  Running time:  94 minutes. Restricted entertainment with the B.C. Classifier's warning: frequent nudity, suggestive scenes.
THE FIRST TIME AROUND, the title made sense. For all of its smouldering sex, Roger Vadim's Et Dieu . . . crea la femme (1956) was an Old Testament tale with Old Testament attitudes.
    For his directorial debut feature, Vadim borrowed a line from Genesis 2:22, the one in which woman is provided to man as an amenity.
    For a hero, he offered filmgoers St. Tropez fisherman Michel Tardieu (Jean-Louis Trintignant), a soulful young husband with an amoral, sexually adventuresome wife. In the title role, he introduced audiences to his own wife, model and minor French film actress Brigitte Bardot.
    An art-house blockbuster at a time when "art" meant "sex with subtitles," Vadim's steamy little parable ended with a righteously indignant Trintignant taming sex kitten Bardot with some old-fashioned physical abuse.
    On the second round, the title makes rather less sense. And God Created Woman, Vadim's flaccid, uninteresting new feature, is neither a remake nor a sequel to his original succes de scandale.
        Here, Vadim's approach owes more to Russ Meyer than Holy Scripture. For a hero, we have an all-American bumpkin, Santa Fe carpenter Billy Moran (Vincent Spano), a lad with straight-arrow ideas about home and hearth.
    While working in the New Mexico State Prison women's facility, he encounters nude would-be escaper Robin Shea (Rebecca De Mornay). Having botched her bid for freedom, Robin consoles herself by having stand-up sex with the agreeable artisan.
    Later, discovering that marriage to a blameless citizen will enhance her chances for parole, she proposes to Billy. Only after the ceremony does he learn of her aversion to postmarital intercourse.
    What Robin really wants is to be a rock star. While Billy makes the best of their arrangement, she puts together a band, hoping for her big break at a concert organized for reform-minded gubernatorial candidate James Tiernan (Frank Langella).
    Somewhere, deep in R.J. Stewart's formulaic screenplay, is the germ of an idea. Unlike Bardot's Juliette, De Mornay's Robin is credited with a talent for something other than sexual performance.
     "There's a good lady inside her," Billy says. What Billy means, of course, is a good wife.
      What he'll get, during the film, is some not-so-subtle consciousness raising.
    What Robin gets is wise. As in Bruce Beresford's beautifully realized The Getting of Wisdom (1978), this is the story of an intelligent woman who learns how the system works, and how to use it to her own advantage.
    Under Vadim's mechanical direction, the genuine potential in this goes largely unrealized. Having made his reputation as a purveyor of Continental eroticism, he produces what is expected of him — softcore sex exploitation with a dated look and smirky sophistication, suitable fare for cable television.

The above is a restored version of a Province review by Michael Walsh originally published in 1988. For additional information on this archived material, please visit my FAQ.

Afterword: Attractive and talented, actress Rebecca De Mornay worked for Roger Vadim at the wrong end of his career. Her first starring role was five years earlier, in the teen comedy Risky Business (1983). Though she was the best thing in the picture, it was co-star Tom Cruise whose career benefited from its success. Despite good work in such features as The Trip to Bountiful (1986) and The Hand that Rocks the Cradle (1992), she had the bad luck to be cast mostly in generic, lacklustre pictures. Without a solid break-out role (or a Vadim-like directorial patron), she gradually matured into "older actress" roles, such as mothers (in the Vancouver-made American Venus; 2007) and mayors (Collar; 2011).

See also: Appended to my review of Blake Edwards's 1981 feature S.O.B. (the one in which his wife Julie Andrews has a topless scene), is a list of directors who've undressed their spouses on screen. Roger Vadim is at the top of that list.