Batten down the hatches and lock up your children, "Henry & June" has come to town, and not since "The Last Temptation of Christ" has a movie caused such an uproar among the masses.
Well, maybe not an uproar. But several phone calls of protest came to the Deseret News Friday, each expressing dismay that the paper would run an ad for "Henry & June," the first film to receive an NC-17 rating.But NC-17 is not X. The X is used by the pornography industry freely, and that's why the Motion Picture Association of America has removed itself from the X.
Sure, NC-17 movies will likely be a bit harder in content than R-rated movies, but the point of the new rating is that it automatically locks out children.
When accompanied by parent or guardian, kids can get into any R-rated movie. But NC-17 means no children under the age of 17 will be admitted, whether or not someone older buys them a ticket.
And Cineplex Odeon plans to monitor the Trolley Square Theater closely so that no youngsters get in. Period.
As is often the case with films that cause a furor, however, the "Henry & June" controversy is much ado about nothing.
True, "Henry & June" has several explicit sex scenes, including a couple of lesbian encounters. But there is nothing here that has not been seen in countless R-rated movies. Why then did it get an NC-17 instead of an R? Probably because more screen time than usual is devoted to the sex scenes - not because those scenes are any more explicit.
But for the most part, this movie is dull and tedious, with two central performances that are extremely artificial.
"Henry & June" is a true story directed by Philip Kaufman, who co-wrote the screenplay with his wife Rose. Kaufman has previously given us such highly touted film fare as "The Right Stuff" and "The Unbearable Lightness of Being."
The "Henry" of the title is Henry Miller, the bohemian New York novelist who wrote "Tropic of Cancer" in Paris during the 1930s.
Fred Ward, his head shaved and his attitude one of posturing bravado, plays Miller with an off-center quality that is occasionally amusing but never very convincing. Worse, however, is Uma Thurman as his wife June, whose Brooklyn accent is the phoniest to come along in a major movie in some time and who always seems to be posing as an alluring presence rather than a person.
In some ways the latter element is in keeping the the dreamlike tone of the entire movie, but a little of this goes a long way, and it quickly becomes tiresome.
The movie is supposedly about the relationship between Henry and June and Anais Nin, played by newcomer Maria de Medeiros, but the film quickly takes Nin's viewpoint and becomes her movie.
Part of this is the sheer allure of both Nin as a character and the fabulous de Medeiros as an actress. But it would seem that the Kaufmans became much more interested in the changes Nin went through during this period than the Millers.
There's nothing wrong with that - certainly Nin is more interesting to the audience as well. But there's no real exploration of why these people do the things they do in attempting to achieve sexual freedom or what it means to them once they seem to have achieved it, even toward the end when consequences begin to catch up with them.
Mostly Kaufman seems more interested in making pretty pictures than digging into the subject at hand. And his script is too bland to support those pictures. In the end it's just superficial gloss.
"Henry & June" is rated NC-17 for sex, nudity, lesbian scenes and profanity.