It may be hard to believe it but Sliver was a big deal back in the day. It was one of Robert Evans’s first producing gigs after getting out of rehab. It was Sharon Stone’s first film after Basic Instinct. The script was written by Basic Instinct‘s Joe Eszterhas, back when that was still something that people bragged about. It featured Tom Berenger, back before he found himself relegated to character roles, and William Baldwin. Remember William Baldwin? He was Alec Baldwin’s younger brother. He looked just like Alec but he never managed to project much of a personality whenever he was onscreen. Even Stephen Baldwin was a more interesting actor than William. Still, back in the day, William Baldwin was close to being a star.
William Baldwin’s lack of personality actually works for the role he plays in Sliver. He’s Zeke, who owns an exclusive high-rise apartment building. Zeke makes his money designing video games and he’s filled the building with secret video cameras so he can spend all day sitting in front of a wall of monitors and watching his tenants and experiencing their lives without having to get close to them. Zeke’s a voyeur. Back in the 90s, the surveillance thing was a big twist. Today, we take it for granted. We even applauded Batman for doing the same thing to all of the citizens of Gotham.
Sharon Stone plays Carly, the newest resident of the Sliver. Carly is a recently divorced book editor snd is lonely and repressed despite being played by Sharon Stone. She draws the attention of both Zeke and her neighbor, Jack (Tom Berenger). Both are interested when they discover that Carly has a telescope on her balcony. “She’s a voyeur!” Jack says. When Carly gets involved with Zeke, Jack is obsessively jealous. He insinuates that Zeke had something to do with the death of the previous tenant of Carly’s apartment.
After Basic Instinct, Sharon Stone made a series of films that were designed to show that she actually could act by casting her as characters who were meant to be sexually repressed. The films never seemed to work because, at the height of Sharon Stone’s 90s stardom, there was nothing about her that suggested that she was repressed in any way. What made her a star in the first place was that she was so uninhibited and not afraid to be as blunt about sex as any of her male co-stars. In Sliver, she gives a performance that is somewhere between her vampish work in Basic Instinct and her terrible ice queen performance in Intersection. At the start of the film, she feels miscast as a straight-laced book editor but her performance gets better once she starts hooking up with Zeke. Sharon Stone tries, even if she doesn’t succeed. That’s more than can be said for most of her co-stars.
“Get a life,” Sharon Stone says at the end of the movie and, as far as final lines go, it’s a bad one because it comes out of nowhere and her actions in the final scene don’t fit in with anything that she’s previously said or done in the film. That’s because the ending was hastily reshot after test audiences disliked the original ending. Test audiences often have the worst instincts.
Like many things, Sliver was big in the 90s but forgotten today. It was a popular Blockbuster rental for a while. VCRs were set for whenever it appeared on Cinemax. When it first came out, it was all about Sharon Stone. Today, it’s all about nostalgia.
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