Slap Out of It!

Julianne Moore slaps Madonna in this campy erotic thriller

During Madonna’s strange, wildly unpredictable film career, there were many missteps. For every Desperately Seeking Susan or A League of Their Own, fans were made to pay dearly with a Shanghai Surprise or a Swept Away. Going to see a Madonna movie in the 90s was always a game of Russian roulette: would a viewer experience transcendent cinema, or just camp?

But perhaps one of Madonna’s most confusing onscreen appearances can be found in 1993’s Body of Evidence, an erotic thriller with a powerhouse cast, and featuring a campy slap heard around the world. Following in the footsteps of Jade and Jagged Edge, Body of Evidence was a sleazy whodunit with a misogynistic edge, one that placed Madonna’s character Rebecca—a sexually powerful woman who plays by her own rules—at the center of its whorephobic thesis.

The Uli Edel thriller—which Julianne Moore would refer to as a career “mistake” in later interviews—ended up sweeping the Razzies by being nominated in almost every category. It’s no wonder why: the movie was not subtle about painting Madonna as the true villain of the piece, despite her character experiencing sexual violence at the hands of several men. As the widow of a man who died under suspicious circumstances, Rebecca (Madonna) is seen as a dangerous woman whose body belongs to everyone, and whose sexual appetite can’t be whetted except by the most extreme acts.

The part that’s even worse, however, is that it’s played off as a campy kind of joke. If Madonna was trying to take back her power after suffering abuse at the hands of her first husband, Sean Penn, it didn’t come off that way. Instead, the movie portrayed Rebecca as evil, not empowered. And not even evil in the fun way, because let me tell you: Basic Instinct this ain’t!

That said, it was a moment in time. A very distinct moment in time in which Julianne Moore, Madonna, Willem Dafoe, Anne Archer, and Frank Langella all decided to sign on to the same plainly horrible movie. And when good actors decide to make bad movies…that’s how you get camp, baby.

The cast? They’re calling it “diva.”

Perhaps Body of Evidence will be exhumed and reinstated as a classic by a new generation. But until then, we’ll always have that slap.

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