Tales: Poison Ivy – The Femme Fatale

Drew Barrymore & Sara Gilbert – Poison Ivy 1992

Is it me or did the 1990s offer us the best steamy movies with enough sex, drama, danger, and beautiful people to last a lifetime?  My age was only in the single digits when most of these movies dropped onto the scene, but when I did see them, they instantly intrigued me and became my personal cult favorites.

Impulse (1990)

Body Chemistry (1990)

Single White Female (1992)

Poison Ivy (1992)

The Hand that Rock the Cradle (1992)

The Lover (L’amant) (1992)

Sliver (1993)

Basic Instinct (1993)

Indecent Proposal (1993)

Crush (1993)

The Babysitter (1995)

Jade (1995)

My Man (Mon homme) (1996)

Lolita (1997)

Wild Things (1998)

Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

Can anyone tell me what these movies have in common?

If you couldn’t guess I will tell you; a whole lot of steamy encounters, partial nudity, plot twists, forbidden romance, and questionable activities by vengeful male and female characters.

Poison Ivy Movie Overview

Poison Ivy starred Drew Barrymore, Sara Gilbert, Tom Skerritt, and Cheryl Ladd. This movie revolves around the character of Ivy played by Drew; Ivy is a 15-year-old smart but troubled teen who befriends Sara.  Ivy exudes a confidence and a type of troubled sexiness that is recognizable by the boys at school and the boys who have long left school. From the beginning of the movie, she is breaking all the rules wearing miniskirts, cleavage-revealing tops, sporting a tattoo and nose ring with beautifully unkempt hair. Basically, Ivy looks like she is in her early 20s instead of the 15-year-old she really is and is experienced and rebellious when placed next to Sylvie played by Sara Gilbert.  Sylvie notices Ivy and is drawn to her carefreeness, beauty, and dear I say there is an underline physical attraction? One thing leads to another and Ivy ends up meeting Sylvie’s family, and in doing this, she discovers that her shy angsty classmate comes from a privileged background. Ivy sees the benefit of their friendship, and slowly, she moves in and is unofficially adopted. Ivy walks into a family that is dealing with the illness of the mother who is played by Cheryl Ladd. Tom Skerritt the father is constantly struggling with his teenage daughter and the idea that his wife might die. In all of this, Ivy is a welcome breath of fresh air, especially since Sylvie is an only child. The only problem with Ivy’s presence in the household is her sinister behavior, she goes out of her way to seduce the father, sabotage Sylvie, and in the end, she is the mother’s grim reaper. Her mind is so twisted that she believes doing this will push her life into the lane she wants. This is made clear once I reflect on the fact that Ivy tells the audience in a scene where she is meeting Sylvie’s mother for the first time that…

”I hope that when I die, I’ll have owned a sports car, had a family, a home…My mom died an old lady who never did anything with the top down, one day with the top down is better than a lifetime in a box”

It was clear from the first 19 minutes into the movie that Ivy had a plan and that was to be like Sylvie’s mother who owns and experienced all the things she dreamed of having.


My Thoughts

I found out that this movie made less than what it was produced for, which is shocking because I always thought that even with my limited knowledge of film-making, this was a well-executed movie. It created a certain mood and fantasy all wrapped up into the world of Ivy. Drew and Sara were 16 years old at the time this movie was made and presented the best acting I had seen for teenagers at that time. Their relationship on screen was believable and took me on a wild ride. The biggest elephant in the room about this movie is the sex scene between a then 16-year-old, Drew and Tom Skerritt. Even in the 6th grade, when I first saw this movie, I thought the scenes were hot and perhaps one of my earliest introductions to what I thought sex would always be like. It somewhat created a fantasy around being a seductress who could command men with a bat of an eyelash. I noticed in many of these movies, they focused a lot on how elements around these scenes created a specific mood and stimulated the viewers without graphic pornographic images. It worked on building up the passion with clean images; focusing on subtle elements about the experience such as high heels with rainwater running off them, garter belts laying on pale skin between a sequin dress, or how wet clothing stuck to the body.  The other thing to look back at is the fashion, the red lips, cowboy boots, red trench coat, sequin dress, the heels, miniskirts, and button-down blouses. Everything that Ivy wore was well put together and extremely effective in the storytelling.

While I would admit that watching this movie in the 6th grade is not recommended, it was a fantasy world I easily got wrapped up into but had enough sense to leave in that world. I do not know how much controversy this film drummed-up during this period, but I can see that it hung on the old stereotype of an older man with a younger girl which to me equals glorifying pedophiles. Even with this, I still cannot help but love the film. Am I wrong for enjoying it?





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