Strictly Confidential

A year and a half ago, New York Magazine published an article about “nepo babies” – stars who allegedly gained easy access into the entertainment industry because of their famous parents. Understandably, it was met with derision by many of those same stars. The label is unfair because plenty of these actors, directors, and musicians are extremely talented in their own right. This does not mean the whole nepo baby concept isn’t valid, though. Consider Damian Hurley. Despite having essentially zero experience in the filmmaking department, he got to write and direct Strictly Confidential, a staggeringly inept thriller that just happens to star his mom, model/actress Elizabeth Hurley.

The story, such as it is, concerns Mia (Georgia Lock) returning to the Caribbean vacation home where her best friend Rebecca (Lauren McQueen) died a year ago. It’s supposed to be a healing reunion for her, Rebecca’s mother Lily (Hurley) and sister Jemma (Genevieve Haunt), and friends James (Freddie Thorp), Will (Max Parker), and Natasha (Pear Chiravara). Rather than being comforting, the vacation turns stressful as deep secrets emerge, including that Lily has been having a hot-and-heavy affair with Natasha.

The biggest secret, which I won’t divulge, is the one that powers the climax. It’s a howler. In fact, the only thing funnier than the plot development is the absurd, heavy-handed way the movie resolves it. Nothing can prepare you for how asinine the finale gets.

Strictly Confidential has a screenplay that sounds like it was written by an AI program that was taught every cheesy, straight-to-cable erotic thriller from the early ‘90s. That includes the old trope where a therapist is called out of the room long enough for the inquiring Mia to dig through her files. Dialogue is flat and obvious, delivered by actors who, for the most part, don’t seem entirely comfortable in front of the camera. How could they with this material? It’s all cliches and cheap sexual titillation, with a weird, incongruous abortion-related subplot tossed in for unfathomable reasons. I’ve seen soap operas that had more dramatic subtlety.

Elizabeth Hurley is the most well-known name in the cast. Her job is to show up periodically in outfits that amply display her feminine features. She also gets to engage in heavy-duty make-out sessions. The film doesn’t have anything to say about affairs, sexuality, loss, grief, betrayal, or anything else for that matter. The younger Hurley seems to think parading his mother around in low-cut dresses and having her simulate oral sex with a female co-star is enough. You can’t escape the feeling that the plot is slapped-together nonsense designed to lead from one oversexed moment to the next. I don’t know what budget was, but a year’s worth of psychoanalysis sessions would have been a better use of money.

Making good trash is absolutely possible. Doing so requires possessing a certain tongue-in-cheek quality so audiences know the movie is in on the joke. Strictly Confidential has no such quality. Everything is treated with maximum seriousness, which only succeeds in emphasizing the utter banality of the proceedings. The picture could have been B-movie fun. Instead, it’s a case study in cinematic incompetence.


out of four

Strictly Confidential is rated R for some sexual content, language, and bloody images. The running time is 1 hour and 29 minutes.

Universal

© 2024 Mike McGranaghan