This 1996 film is the Wachowski Brothers
' writing and directorial debut. It has some fine camerawork, while not as eye-popping as The Matrix
, is just as beautiful. The writing draws in from many genres and uses several familiar devices, but keeps things fresh. It features excellent performances from Joe Pantoliano
, Jennifer Tilly
, Gina Gershon
, and a great supporting cast.
The story starts when Corky (Gina Gershon) shares an elevator with Violet (Jennifer Tilly). They glance at each other. Corky is the outwardly butch lesbian, sporting a labyris tattoo, looking tough with a toned body and a short haircut. Violet is pure femininity, wearing a short skirt. The mutual allure is apparent to both but they speak no words as they exit the elevator.
The movie turns into a Penthouse Forum story when Violet requests help from Corky to retrieve an earring lost down a drain. Violet eventually seduces Corky until their tryst is interrupted by Violet's boyfriend Caesar (Joe Pantoliano). The girls later manage to complete their affair in an excellently-done love scene.1 A turn is taken when Violet decides she wants to get out of Caesar's mafia business. She and Corky devise a plan to steal $2 million of the mob's money and start a new life together. The movie at this point turns into a full-blown caper.
The plan is perfect, but of course, things start to go wrong, and keep going wrong. I don't want to spoil anything more at this point, so I will just say the Brothers provide continuous thrills. The film is rooted in noir, but never gets that serious, and it is comedic at points, but never gets campy. It has a nice balance between all the sources it draws from, and while relatively predictable, is a fun and exciting romp to the end.
Notes: There is a scene of graphic violence in a bathroom that may put some people off. It never gets more violent than this, and that scene does serve a purpose. However, you may fast-forward through it (or close your eyes, it happens quickly), although it lessens the impact of a future scene. There is also obviously a lesbian love scene, which is not all that graphic, but if you are offended by such things, you may safely fast-forward through that part without affecting the rest of the film too much.
1 The R-rated version cuts out a small portion of the love scene which lessens the impact. It's rather unfortunate as the scene really isn't that graphic and is a beautiful continuous rotating shot (sorry to disappoint anyone, but if you are, you're better off buying some lesbian porn). The MPAA objected to the shot of Violet's hand between Corky's legs. It's a little strange, as having a man's hips between a woman's legs does not warrant an NC-17. But that's a story for another node.
An analysis follows, which contains spoilers. If you have not yet seen the film, I highly suggest reading no further.
The film carries a lesbian subtext through several themes. The first one encountered is that of duality
. Violet and Corky share the elevator, but on opposite sides. Corky is alone, and Violet has her man. This division is again seen when Violet first visits Corky in room 1003. Violet drinks coffee with cream, and Corky prefers hers black. The wallpaper in the background has two boxes, and each woman is framed in separate ones. Violet, however, moves closer to Corky until they share the same box. At the film's conclusion, the division is completely erased when Corky asks what the difference between them is, and the answer is clearly "none."
While the word "heat" is often used to describe heterosexual love scenes in movies, this film evokes something quite different - wetness. This theme, coupled with the focus on hands, appropriately enough describes aspects of lesbian love. The scene where Corky loosens the pipe under the sink is literally dripping, as much as Violet desires Corky enough to later seduce her. Violet's speech to Corky about liking people who work with their hands is another example. There are numerous shots of Corky and Violet's hands together, which evoke's the film's title, as they are bound together both by love and the trouble they get into.
Prescribed gender roles are at times reinforced and sometimes reversed. The scene where Caesar is literally money laundering, washing and ironing the bills, flips expectations. His rearrangement of the furniture later on, however, is purely "man's work," as Violet merely looks on. Violet changes appearances depending on who she is with; she wears skirts when other people are around, but alone with Corky she wears jeans (the coffee scene in room 1003).
The main theme, however, is that of being "bound." This runs throughout the whole movie, as it is mostly constrained to the two apartments. It creates a claustrophobic atmosphere that is further reinforced by the camerawork. This is mostly noticable in the Gino murder scene, where there is no wide shot of the room, and everyone in the room is never shown together. The love scene starts with an encompassing view that rotates around and zooms in to two bodies joined together. Another beautiful piece of cinematography involves the telephone line tracing, from Violet to Corky. This is seen again when Violet touches the wall, and we shift to the other side and see that Violet is touching the same place without even knowing it. Ultimately the film is about how intimately bound Corky and Violet are.