In Tied to a Chair, Naomi (Bonnie Loren) is an unhappily married middle-aged woman whose acting dreams are tightly intertwined with her erotic bondage fantasies. So she flees miserable domesticity to the poolside glamour of the Cannes Film Festival, where she tries to convince filmmaker Billy Rust (Mario Van Peebles, still hot at 54) to cast her in his next film as a bondage-loving lady. “Take me to your hotel room. Take me and tie me to a chair,” she tells him. “You know you want to.” He reluctantly obliges only to conveniently fall asleep mid-audition.
Naomi goes through great lengths to make the tied-to-a-chair fantasy (every woman’s fantasy, according to Naomi) come true. She ends up in New York City, where rushing to an audition requires her to steal a yellow cab and evade the NYPD. She eventually finds herself without a role and in the middle of an elaborate terrorist plot involving dynamite packed in the trunk of taxicabs which feature ejectable seats that shoot the driver up in the air right before they explode.
Bonnie Loren brings a kind of spunk to the material that evokes Miranda July. But instead of pursuing quirkiness, director and writer Michael Bergmann oversaturates the narrative with an unhealthy amount of plot twists that drive the film closer to botched comedy than intelligent spoof. Lit like a daytime soap and staged like a filmed theater play on British television, Tied to a Chair mostly suffers from a sense of confusion that never reads like bona fide experimentalism, just aimlessness.
The plot does culminate in a compelling scene at a garage filled with cabs packed with explosives in which a veil-wearing Naomi almost fools a group of Arab terrorists into believing she’s their boss. The scene plays out with a similar gravitas as 13 (Tzameti)‘s Russian-roulette madness. This moment of seriousness seems to betray the confusing zaniness that precedes it, hinting at a sophistication it cannot sustain.