Picks and Pans Review: Mrs. Soffel
There's a fascinating couple in Mrs. Soffel but, unfortunately, it isn't Mel Gibson and Diane Keaton. Toward the end of an illicit escapade, the lovers played by Keaton and Gibson take shelter in the isolated farmhouse of an elderly married couple. Although they're peripheral to the plot, Paula Trueman and Les Rubie convey the charged chemistry of a convincing twosome. The same cannot be said of the stars, even though this is a love story with extraordinary potential. Based on a real incident in turn-of-the-century Pittsburgh, Mrs. Soffel chronicles the perilous attraction between a prison warden's repressed wife and an infamous inmate. But even after Keaton helps her lover escape and flees with him and his brother, she and Gibson play as if there were still bars separating them. Although both are persuasive in scenes with other characters, they never connect with each other, which may explain why the film delivers so little sense of liberation even after Keaton escapes her suffocating household. Director Gillian (My Brilliant Career) Armstrong, usually an inventive filmmaker, here sinks in a quicksand of period details and dark-as-night cinematography. Ron Nyswaner's script is humorless, and Armstrong's monotonous staging of the jailhouse scenes undercuts the incubation of passion that is the core of the movie. Despite its possibilities, Mrs. Soffel mainly induces indifference. (PG-13)
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