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Femme Fatale

Bad girls really do have all the fun--at least in the neo-noir flick Femme Fatale.


Laure Ash (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos) is a very bad American girl who does very bad things. She steals diamonds from an actress at the Cannes Film Festival, cheats her partners in crime, wears a lot of very suggestive underwear and has lots and lots of manipulative sex with women and with men. Set mainly in Belleville, France, and spanning seven years--twice--Femme Fatale asks whether or not leopards can change their spots and, if they can, what does it take? Meeting a nice girl who just lost her husband and child--and who happens to look just like you--sure can help, although if you choose to steal her passport and identity after you watch her blow her brains out, odds are your leopard-skin lingerie is there to stay. Of course, all any proper bad girl really needs to turn her black heart to gold is the love of a good man, so when Nicholas Bardo (Antonio Banderas), ex-paparazzo, enters the picture, we know it's only a matter of time before Laure comes to her senses.


Stamos (Rollerball) is a bad, bad girl in Femme Fatale, and she's got a bit of a reputation as a bad, bad actress in real life, which is largely the reason for the poor pre-release press this film has received, much to director Brian De Palma's (Mission to Mars) chagrin. But believe it or not, she's not completely horrible in the film, which required her to speak French (she did passably well), strip to her skivvies (she did remarkably well--more than once), and play multiple characters. The scenes between Stamos and the slickly charming, brooding Banderas (Original Sin) are the highlights of the film, but sometimes Banderas is so campy that it throws the whole thing off kilter. Why in the heck is Banderas prancing around and lisping, pretending to be gay and eliciting chuckles and sometimes even outright laughter from the audience? I mean, he's funny and he makes the scene funny and, hey, I laughed. But this is supposed to be noir. You're not supposed to laugh.


Banderas' schizophrenic performance is merely a symptom of Femme Fatale's fatal flaw: it's a derivative film that just can't decide what it wants to be. It tries to be a sexy tale of the twisted woman à la Basic Instinct, but Stamos just doesn't have enough mystique about her to pull that off (shedding her clothes at every possible moment doesn't help). It strives to be an edge-of-your-seat thriller, but unlike The Sixth Sense, a film whose surprise ending left audiences wanting to see the movie again to check for clues, the revelation at the end of Femme Fatale leaves you feeling like an idiot, because you should have seen it coming. After the twist, the film tells the same story a second time, with the heroine making a different choice and thereby changing the life we thought she had lived (Sliding Doors, anyone?). It's interesting to analyze Femme Fatale as a pastiche of modern filmmaking, but taken as a whole, the movie's got a lot less going for it than any of the films it tries to emulate.

Bottom Line

Femme Fatale is so derivative that even its numerous sex scenes and stripteases fail to make its climax meaningful.