Dir: Robert M. Young, 1986
Movies about female empowerment, became a rather hot genre in the late seventies and through the eighties. Women were getting their dues.
No longer portrayed as the archetypal “damsels in distress”, women were fighting back and showing Hollywood that they had what it takes.
In an ironic twist, however, the only way Hollywood could depict this revolutionary concept, was by titillating rape scenes and any excuse for her to get her kit off. They hail this new era of filmaking by being misogynistic.
Sadly, this shows that the world hadn’t caught up with reality and boils down to, “women are not sexual objects and we’ll prove it by giving men something to ogle”. It’s a case of giving one hand, but taking with the other.
This film isn’t any different. Based on the award-winning stage play of 1982, Extremities is a tale of attempted rape and sexual assault, and not adding anything new.
Marjorie (Farrah Fawcett) is held at knifepoint by a masked man, in the backseat of her car with the intent of raping her, but Marjorie manages to escape.
Reporting the incident, the police are insensitive and more interested in form filling than her plight.
A couple of days later, her two housemates have gone to work and Marjorie is left alone. However, her attacker stole her purse that contains her ID.
Turning up at her house, the assailant terrorises and humiliates Marjorie, but she turns the tables and has the intruder tied up in her chimney.
Seizing the opportunity, Marjorie taunts her attacker like he did with her and subjects him to psychological abuse.
What sets Extremities apart from other films of this ilk, is the lack of revenge in the traditional sense. Such fare as I Spit On Your Grave, Ms. 45, and Lipstick took great delight in seeing the wrong doers receive their just desserts. The violence inhabited in those films, are in correlation to the torture experienced by the victim. In short, the punishment fits the crime. This makes Extremities a character piece, focusing on the morality of the actions and asks questions about right and wrong.
It’s important to be aware that no rape actually occurs. This doesn’t make the crime any less severe or trivialises any form of assault and terrorisation, but it removes the label “rape and revenge”.
The film can also be seen as a social commentary on the ill treatment of victims and the justice system. Reporting the crime, the police officer uses the word “complied”. Marjorie didn’t comply, she was forced. There is a difference. As far as the officer filling the form out is concerned, there isn’t.
Extremities is a fantastic showcase for Fawcett’s acting talents. Unfairly treated as a blonde bimbo due to her role in Charlie’s Angels, Fawcett showed the cinema world the depth that she could bring to a role. Starring in the stage production, the actress was able to be taken seriously.
If it’s action that you’re after, then this isn’t the film for you. An enjoyable yet, somewhat, rare movie, that is let down by it’s lack of an ending and loose ends.
Worth a watch.