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Exit to Eden presents cute, superficial sexual themes

Exit to Eden

Directed by Garry Marshall.

Written by Deborah Amelon and Bob Brunner, based on the novel by Anne Rice.

Starring Dana Delany, Paul Mercurio,

Rosie O'Donnell, and Dan Aykroyd.

Loews Cheri.

By Teresa Esser

The official poster for the new movie Exit to Eden shows four principal characters. Two of these characters, Paul Mercurio and Dana Delaney, resemble characters in the original book by Anne Rice. The other two characters, Dan Aykroyd and Rosie O'Donnell, have been fused into the script on a Hollywood attempt to make the movie palatable to large numbers of the viewing public.

The central characters in the poster, as well as the book, are a dominatrix and a citizen/slave. Their story is one of dominance and subordination, and the trust that can develop between a mistress and a slave.

The Hollywood add-ons detract from the central focus on the poster as well as on the screen. The looming figures of Rosie O'Donnell and Dan Aykroyd make you think you're going to see something funny and cute, when in reality the story is about S&M. It's unfortunate that Hollywood didn't trust its viewing public enough to leave it alone with a screenful of whips and chains. Whenever the scenes get really interesting, Rosie O'Donnell flashes her badge. Imagine a bedroom scene that ends with the door being kicked wide open. "Halt!" O'Donnell cries. "NYPD Blue!" That's about how the movie works.

The film itself is a combination of Dragnet, Dirty Dancing, and Fantasy Island. Its billing as a romantic comedy is a bit misleading. Most of the humor is centered around Dan Aykroyd's inability to lose his inhibitions.

As far as costuming goes, the movie is first-rate. (Hubba Hubba sent a leather squadron to the preview.) There is a lot of flesh shown, and the male-female split is about 50/50. Most of the characters wander around the island in bathing gear made of faux-leather strips.

It was difficult to determine what the producers were trying to do with this movie. It began like a police movie, but then the action shifted to the lives of the uninvolved, peripheral characters. The background of Dana Delaney's dominatrix was investigated partially, from her conversion from a repressed graduate student to the time she almost cried at her mother's funeral. However, this background information only serves to distract viewers from the real plot: New York police officers have to catch two diamond smugglers who are obsessed with capturing a photographer who has taken their picture.

It was interesting to consider the risks that director Garry Marshall (Pretty Woman) took in order to achieve the movie's objectives. On one hand, the movie did include a sex scene, a spanking scene, and the act of cunnilingus. There were bikinis and thongs, human ping-pong, and near-naked pole-climbing. There was a store full of whips, chains and leather apparel, as well as a variety of private collections. However, all of these hedonistic images were balanced by the sexually repressed, middle-aged "guests" of the island, who often refused to touch their personal slaves. (Dan Aykroyd's character nearly fainted when a female physician required him to drop his drawers.)

This film is interesting as a cultural study. Cute and friendly, it makes fun of societal repressions and proves that nearly everyone has to work through something, even goddesses of S&M.

If you liked Fantasy Island you'll love Exit to Eden. In this film the viewer is actually allowed to watch one or two of the ubiquitous sex acts.

"Do you want me?" the subordinates say to their guests. "I am here for your pleasure." Dan Aykroyd's "janitor" character contributes an aura of repression to the island of freedom, muttering "There is so much sex going on all around me that it distracts me from my work. I try not to let it get to me by concentrating on repairing small engines."

That sentiment alone makes this movie a must-see for MIT students. It's certainly cute, and it may help the repressed become less uptight.