The Rachel Papers (1989) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

Looking back at this movie,  I guess it's more important to celebrity nudity history than to movie history. The most important thing about it was that it marked Ione Skye's nude debut. She had just turned 18, and she looked very luscious and ripe. If you didn't know, she is the daughter of the hippie of hippies, the wimp-rock balladeer Donovan. Looking back at the promise Ione showed in this film and elsewhere in her early career, and then comparing that to her career in the past eight years, it certainly seems that something went wrong somewhere.  She is working in truly obscure films these days. Of her last six projects, not one has more than 15 votes at IMDb.

Shortly after she split from Beastie Boy Adam Horovitz in 1999, Ione revealed on the Howard Stern show that she is bisexual and that model Jenny Shimizu "brought her into the Lesbian nation." I don't think the whole lesbian thing did a lot for her career.

The Rachel Papers is about a conniving young Brit who uses his high level of intelligence to seduce women. He plans out and scripts every encounter, every phone call, every move, with computerized assistance. He communicates his strategies directly to the audience by speaking into the camera and offering "takes" for the camera's benefit.

When he finally seems to have met the girl of his dreams, he pursues her long enough to get her. They then live together for two weeks behind their parents' backs, and the sex is all he dreamed it would be, but he gradually becomes disenchanted with his dream girl when he sees her peeing, or her period starts in bed, or she leaves half-eaten food under the bed, or she sings along with the radio without knowing the tune or the words. He dumps her by mouthing some insincere bullshit. She calls him on it, and asks him to stop posturing and manipulating and trying to look smart. She asks him to just show his true feelings and say what is on his mind.

When he turns in his exams at Oxford, the professor who reads his papers tells him the same thing Rachel said, that he should stop using flowery phrases which are designed to make him seem smart, and try instead to communicate his real feelings accurately.


Ione Skye spent about 15 consecutive minutes of this film with her breasts exposed.

Dexter Fletcher showed his bum and sack whilst leaping through the ai.r

DVD info from Amazon

  • widescreen anamorphic 1.85:1

  • no significant features

Martin Amis wrote the eponymous novel when he was 24, and it is interesting to note that the criticisms leveled against the young boy in this story are the very same criticisms leveled against Martin Amis himself by literary critics to this day, including the comments made by his own famous father, Kingsley Amis. Martin has a reputation for showing off his vocabulary and trying to appear as smart as possible, ala Joyce or Nabokov, but not being able to deal with or to understand human feelings. John Updike called one of Amis's novels "post-human".

I guess The Rachel Papers, written thirty years ago, shows that Amis was not lacking in self-awareness. It's interesting that he has been aware of this weakness all along, yet could not or would not mitigate it!


The Rachel Papers (1989) features Dexter Fletcher as a college student about to turn 20, and preparing for his entrance tests for Oxford. He is very bright, and has enjoyed success with girls in his peer group, partly because of carefully planned seductions, which include keeping a computer database on each girl. Then he sees Ione Skye, and decides he wants more of a relationship with an older, more aloof woman, so sets about catching her. He is rebuffed time after time, until he finally strikes pay dirt by making a video for her. She elects to break up with James Spader, and move in with Fletcher while her mother is out of town. The sex is great, but Fletcher discovers that the reality of living with a woman who uses the bathroom, messes the house, and starts her period in bed is nowhere near as great as the mystery of the unknown before she moved in.

This film works primarily because of good pace and excellent production value. The plot itself is not ground-breaking. Fletcher narrates the story, and his character is totally self-absorbed (like the author of the book it was based on), so the character development was lacking in the other characters. The most entertaining character was Fletcher's brother in law, played by Jonathan Pryce. From my viewpoint, casting Spader as his nemesis was a great decision. I don't know if it is Spader himself, or the roles he accepts, but I always want to jump up and slap him upside the head to wipe that supercilious "I'm lily white and oh so cool" grin off of his face.

The Critics Vote

The People Vote ...

  • Virtually unreleased, it grossed $200,000 in the USA.


The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, Scoop says, "the movie is just OK - a C by our rating system. It's OK if it is your kind of movie, but not likely to convert you to this type of movie with the speed at which Ben Affleck converts screen lesbians. I watched it without reaching for the FF, but I like "coming of age" films in general." Tuna says, "I agree with Scoopy's C. It is enjoyable enough, an easy watch, but nothing profound or memorable."

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