Nigel ( Hugh Grant ) and Fiona ( Kristin Scott Thomas ) are a couple on a cruise ship bound for India. They make the acquaintance of a beautiful French woman named Mimi ( Emmanuelle Seigner ) who Nigel becomes infatuated with. Nigel runs into a man paralyzed from the waist down named Oscar ( Peter Coyote ) who tells him that he is Mimi’s husband, and that she was the one who put him in his wheelchair. He makes Nigel an offer. He will allow Nigel to have an affair with Mimi provided Nigel listen to his story about how he and Mimi met. From there the majority of the film is told in flashbacks as each day Nigel visits Oscars room to hear the next chapter of his story. Oscar was an untalented writer who after receiving money from a trust fund moved to Paris for some inspiration. There he met Mimi on a bus and both fall madly in love, or so they thought. Their sex life is incredible, but after a few months begins to grow stale. Oscar falls out of love and begins to become annoyed by Mimi, but Mimi’s love for Oscar grows. Oscar tries to break up with Mimi but she refuses to leave, threatening to take her own life if they can not be together. Oscar then decides to basically treat Mimi like crap until she finally becomes fed up with him. She puts up with his abuse and sticks it out with him, but at a cost. She becomes severely depressed and begins to lose her looks. During this time the couple are still having sex, and Mimi becomes pregnant, but Oscar talks her into having an abortion during which she contracts a venereal disease. While she is still in the hospital Oscar tells her that he has booked two tickets to Martinique so they can have a second honeymoon. But when they both get on the plane Oscar sneaks off the plane sending her off with no money to return. Now free of Mimi Oscar begins running around having sex with a new woman every night. While leaving a club drunk he is run over by a minibus and ends up in a hospital with a broken leg. Mimi comes to visit him and is once again looking young and fit. What begins as a pleasant visit turns violent when Mimi pulls Oscar out of his bed and onto his back where the impact severs his spine paralyzing him. For the next few years Mimi takes care of Oscar as his nurse, but cuts him off from all human contact while abusing him just as bad as he had abused her.
The flashback story comes off like an extremely dark version of a very formulaic story of a relationship going downhill which takes a turn into Whatever Happened to Baby Jane territory in it’s second half which is also formulaic. The films strength is it’s framing story which has it’s surprises, but that story takes up only 10% of the movie. Director Roman Polanski often chose movies that explored the theme of cruelty, and this movie heaps it on. Oscars abuse of Mimi is almost unbearable to watch, especially since the film depicts its devastating effects on her, turning her from a happy young girl into a zombie like depressed overweight grey haired woman. Mimi’s sadistic abuse of the invalid Oscar is also unbearable to the point that you actually feel sorry for him despite what he had done earlier in the film. How you feel about the film depends on how much of this abuse you can take as entertainment.
What has had so many fetish aficionado seeking this movie out is a single scene, which has become a viral hit on YouTube, where Emmanuelle Seigner is wearing a tight red latex mini dress. The scene in question, which takes place at 1 hour 4 minutes into the movie, is just as brief as it is on YouTube. Emmanuelle has just literally snapped the dress on and asks Peter Coyote how the dress looks on her and he responds by saying he would rather she did not wear it, suggesting it makes her look fat. The next scene has her wearing a sweater instead. Fortunately there are other scenes in the movie of interest. At 44 minutes she is wearing a black vinyl raincoat over just a garter belt and stockings. She wears the same outfit again at 51 minutes with the addition of a black bra and with her hair done up in a single ponytail. But her best outfit comes much as a surprise at 1 hour 46 minutes into the movie. She is wearing a white satin robe with an unappealing hairnet looking everything like an unattractive housewife when she suddenly decided to go out to a club, removes the robe and hairnet, and puts on a black vinyl short-short catsuit. As stunning as she looks in these outfits it is hard to find these scenes sexy given the heavy mental abuse the characters are heaving on each other. Other outfits of note in the movie include her wearing a black leotard top and sequenced miniskirt at 6 minutes, a long red velvet turtleneck with slightly shiny black leggings, a dark blue velvet strapless gown with matching arm length satin gloves at the 2 hour mark, and lets not forget the near transparent white dress she wears when she does a sexy floor dance for Coyote which is another popular YouTube clip. That can be found 30 minutes into the film.