On 1-to-10 titillation scale, a New York strip-club sequence rates at least a seven. Joe and Wendy watch a stripper (Sara Costa, who also choreographed) and then, with little coaxing, Wendy takes to the stage for a very professional-looking impromptu set. Demi Moore in “Striptease” didn’t have half the moves.
Pic’s main twist is that Joe isn’t really into S&M; he experiments with the subculture only to court Wendy, whose regular clientele likes it rough. Setup allows for cute-to-embarrassing moments, such as when Joe is first shackled (“OK, but no pain or humiliation”) and when 11-year-old Samantha (Rachel Crane) interrupts Dad’s latenight video research. Wendy recalls, “When I was little I used to chase boys and tie them up.” She’s been empowered ever since.
Needless to say, such material would come off as ludicrous without full commitment from the cast. Tabori piles on the charm to make his straying husband character likable, and, even when down to his briefs, he’s never less than poised. Sommerfield often resembles the young Kim Novak in Paddy Chayefsky’s “Middle of the Night,” and in sexually ambiguous moments conjures some of that star’s pale vulnerability.
Kaczmarek finds shadings in the thankless victim role and really pours it on for a final kitchen flare-up. Lou Rawls appears briefly as a saloon singer who doles out barstool advice even he doesn’t buy. Hoagy Carmichael handled this kind of thing better.
Though the climax doesn’t come off, and overall handling of a taboo subject will seem too soft-focus for those voyeurs in the house, pic overall augurs well for frosh helmer Nolin, who has a strong visual sense and obvious knack with actors. Production values, including William D. Barber’s lensing, are above average, and Porter Jordan’s original songs, including “Chain Me to Your Heart,” further pic’s storybook take on rough trade.