Chris McCormick (Margaux Hemingway) is a successful model and much sought after for advertising campaigns, with the one she is taking part in currently for a lipstick firm the most lucrative to date. Today she is posing by the sea on some rocks, and her sister Kathy (Mariel Hemingway) is present too, watching from a distance. Soon she is joined by her music teacher, Gordon Stuart (Chris Sarandon), who she has invited over to let Chris hear his self-composed music in the hope she might be able to further his career. However, Chris is too busy to see him and asks him to go over to her apartment she shares with Kathy later on - an invitation which turns out to be a dreadful mistake...
When Lipstick was released, most of the publicity centred around the fact that it was real life international model Margaux Hemingway who had taken the lead, but once the film had been seen it was written off as an upscale exploitation flick, it was a Dino De Laurentiis presentation after all. It's true that the plot shares similarities with the typical rape revenge movie of the nineteen-seventies, the kind of thing that packed in the less discriminating drive-ins for example, but there are signs that David Rayfiel's script had pretentions to say something important about the excuses rapists use to explain their actions.
For it's Chris who is raped when Gordon arrives at her home to play her his tunes, which turn out to be the audio equivalent of a migraine, so when the phone rings, Chris takes the opportunity to take the call in the next room. Growing frustrated, Gordon flies into a rage and accuses her of prostituting herself for her career, and eventually beats her around, ties her to the bed and rapes her. This could have been more graphic, though we see enough to know how unpleasant the ordeal is, yet there's always that nagging feeling that the attack has been built up as a sensational setpiece - the next decade's The Accused had the same uncomfortable problem although fewer were inclined to admit it. With both films, we don't need to see the attack at all.
After that, the film settles into a courtroom drama that wouldn't have looked out of place as a TV movie where Chris has to face up to the fact that many rapes are either unreported or fail to go the victim's way in the courts. Anne Bancroft adds a touch of class as her lawyer, realistic but crusading nonetheless, yet the outcome of the trial is a cruel twist designed to prolong the injustice. The interesting point is raised about whether Gordon thought he could get away with what he did because Chris's portrayal in her profession made her look available, but this is dropped in favour of a more clichéd revenge plot and a completely unnecessary second assault. The only part where the film seems to admit its trashiness is where we see Chris in a red ballgown toting a rifle and hunting Gordon through a car park, but simply goes to demonstrate the film's unwillingness to get a serious handle on the issues it raises. Music by French cult musician Michel Polnareff.