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People Top 5
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- August 24, 1992
- Vol. 38
- No. 8
Picks and Pans Main: Screen
Whispers in the Dark
Even in their dotage, Gary Cooper and John Wayne seemed to remember what it was that had enabled them to make such an impact on the western genre, and that wasn't hours of introspection and bleary psychodrama. High Noon, after all, was full of classic punch-ups and shoot-outs, and even when Wayne was reduced to buddying up with the likes of Dean Martin and Fabian, his movies kept up a high level of action.
This film, produced and directed by Eastwood, now 62, frequently bogs down in self-doubt. Eastwood, an old gunslinger ("the meanest no-good son of a bitch alive") is dragooned into hunting down two cowboys who have slashed a Wyoming prostitute. He finds it hard to get the old hostility flowing again when all he wants is to be a pig farmer and "just a plain fella." Forget Dirty Harry, This is Clean Clint.
Other than the travelogue-picturesque Alberta, Canada, and Sonora, Calif., locations, the only positively memorable part of this film is the resourceful, reliable Hackman, who as a brutal sheriff is a villain worthy of the greatest western heroes. Freeman, as an old saddle pal of Eastwood who is enlisted into the bounty hunt, is as peripheral in this movie as he was in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.
The script is by David Webb Peoples, whose Blade Runner displayed an originality and wit this movie lacks. His story is reduced to focusing on men so frightened they urinate in their pants, discussions of masturbation, and extensive explorations of management-employee relationships at frontier brothels, as well as on Eastwood's incessant brooding over the morality of killing bad guys.
Newcomer Jaimz Woolvett nicely pulls off the role of the young hot gun who first tells Eastwood about the bounty on the slasher, and Frances (L.A. Story) Fisher is sympathetic as the most golden-hearted of the bordello inmates. But the chronically dull Saul (Man Trouble) Rubinek nerds it up as a dime novelist who starts out following Eastwood's rival Richard Harris and ends up as Hackman's biographer in a disconcerting subplot.
While Eastwood dedicates the film to Sergio Leone and Don Siegel, his early directors, he doesn't seem to have learned all that much from them. If their action films had been this plodding, nobody would ever have heard of Clint Eastwood outside of television's Rawhide. (R)"
Bridget Fonda, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Steven Weber
Some people described the recent thriller The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, the chronicle of a family torn apart by an evil nanny, as a cautionary tale for women trying to have it all. Those same people will, no doubt, view this predictable thriller as a cautionary tale for women searching for fulfillment through others. But there's a far simpler message in both movies: Check references.
Fonda appears to have everything: looks, style, her own software business (albeit a struggling one), a cute fiancé (Weber of TV's Wings) and a rent-controlled New York City apartment. Breaking off the engagement when she learns of her beau's infidelity, yet distraught about living alone, she advertises for a roommate, finally settling on the waiflike Leigh (Rush).
It seems a perfect relationship: Fonda needs companionship and comfort; Leigh needs to be needed. They share clothes and confidences. But when Fonda and her fiance reunite, Leigh refuses to surrender her role. She wants to stay in the apartment; she wants to stay with and close to Fonda, and she goes so far as to adopt an identical haircut and hair color, doing what she can to sabotage Fonda's romance—and much more.
Shot almost entirely—with determined stylishness—in shadow and low light, Single White Female so assiduously recruits every gambit in the genre (purloined letter, intercepted phone messages, the revealing box of news clips on a closet shelf, long chases with blunt instruments, dead bodies that don't stay dead) that it seems almost a parody.
Director Barbet (Reversal of Fortune) Schroeder, who fills the movie with gratuitous nudity and negative male stereotypes, is no less intent on telegraphing its every intention: "Gee, I hope you never get mad at me," Fonda says after Leigh unleashes a storm of invective against an obnoxious man.
The pertly appealing Fonda does what she can with a muddled role, but Leigh starts off too creepy, as if she knows full well that her grip on reality—to say nothing of her time at the apartment—is limited. (R)
Annabella Sciorra, Anthony LaPaglia, Jamey Sheridan, Alan Alda, Jill Clayburgh
Like Basic Instinct, this is a preposterous thriller that maintains interest even though it features not an instant of plausible behavior.
Unlike Basic Instinct, this is a splendidly acted thriller, though even Sciorra, LaPaglia, Alda et al. can't derive much honest drama from a script—by director Christopher Crowe in his first feature—that never rises above the level of one character, who has just clubbed his wife over the head with a full wine bottle and intentionally overturned a dining room table full of dishes, announcing, "I am very upset."
The plot continues Hollywood's open season on shrink bashing. The affecting, expressive Sciorra (Jungle Fever) plays a psychiatrist who, while she is not the certifiable maniac John Lithgow plays in Raising Cain, is so stubbornly sappy and stupid that she seems at least as crazy as her patients, which is saying a lot since her practice would seem to be devoted to sadists and masochists.
Deborah (Prisoners of the Sun) Unger is a patient whose murder sets off a chain reaction of coincidence-laden events during which Sciorra comes to suspect even her wholesome new boyfriend, Sheridan (A Stranger Among Us), of being the killer. Also involved in the murder investigation are LaPaglia (Betsy's Wedding), who has a Bogartish ability to play both good and evil, as a homicide cop; John (Hangin' with the Homeboys) Leguizamo, as a violent patient of Sciorra's; Alda, an avuncular psychotherapist who is Sciorra's mentor; and Clayburgh, Alda's slow-witted-going-on-dense wife. The psychotherapeutic community could justifiably raise its hackles over the film's emphasis on flawed therapists, but Crowe does keep up a reasonable level of momentum and generates suspense about the identity of the murderer. (R)"
- Ralph Novak,
- Joanne Kaufman.
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