If Wikipedia is to be believed, the orchid family is one of the two largest families of flowering plants known to man; they’re everywhere, going wild without a whisper of a care and making love in expensive hotels. But sadly, not all orchids are quite so relaxed; some lack self-confidence and need a little help to loosen up and explore their flowering sexuality and this (almost) truth seems to be the pungent metaphor at the centre of Zalman King’s exceedingly odd, but still pretty awful Wild Orchid. Emily Reed (Carré Otis) is a polite young Mid-Western lawyer who heads to New York to seek her fortune and sexual awakening.
Before she knows it, Emily’s new law firm is flying her out to Rio De Janeiro to help oversee a property deal and she’s going on a date with the mysteriously louche Wheeler (Mickey Rourke). Wheeler has a good line in leather waistcoats and pastel blazers, but Emily would do well not to be taken in – he has little interest in food. His idea of a good time involves whispering made-up narratives of seduction and attending masked sex parties without actually partaking in any of the nude canoodling. He has a heart of ice, or something. It hardly matters and to its credit, the film doesn’t try too hard to pretend that it does.
As far as erotica goes, it certainly ticks the boxes: the ratio of bodice-ripping to close-ups of people sweating is spot on and the plot is loosened up beyond functional to an almost experimental level of ‘you don’t care, we don’t care’. But for all that good work the script is unintentionally comical, while the acting is generally wooden and often creepy. Yet, Rourke seems to be making a bit of an effort and Jacqueline Bisset (playing a senior lawyer who helps facilitate a few of the many erotic triangulations) is actually quite good in a pleasingly unhinged sort of way. This redeems the film a touch and saves it from being completely unwatchable, but it’s trash all the same. Testament, no doubt, to the sheer biological will of the orchid to grow no matter how wild, no matter how the insalubrious, the soil it lands in.