Picks and Pans Review: House of Cards

updated 07/19/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/19/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Kathleen Turner, Tommy Lee Jones, Asha Menina

Turner, an architect, is returning home with hideously heavy baggage after several years in Mexico. Her husband has been killed in an accident on a pyramid site, and her traumatized 6-year-old daughter (Menina), guided by an elderly Indian friend, has retreated into a world of Mayan fancy and folklore. The girl's father is "living in the moon," counsels the Indian, who also tells the child, "it is easier to see without words." Taking the man at his word, Menina ceases to speak, letting out only a repetitive lamb's bleat when distraught. She is utterly nonresponsive to Turner or her older brother (the very good Shiloh Strong) but does begin displaying quite extraordinary fearlessness, climbing to the tops of trees, to the top of the house to retrieve Strong's model airplane and baseball, and to the top of a construction site. Turner, who, ironically, suffers from vertigo, has been ascribing her daughter's strange behavior to culture shock but is now forced to seek the help of a psychiatrist (Jones, in a strong, sympathetic performance). And Menina's behavior becomes even more bizarre: One night she constructs a stunningly intricate, multilevel house of cards and family photos. Convinced that her daughter is desperately trying to communicate something, Turner becomes more and more determined to enter the child's strange new world.

House of Cards, which recalls Awakenings and, somewhat more faintly, Lorenzo's Oil, starts out strongly but becomes gradually more pal before finally falling apart completely. But the uncharacteristically unmannered Turner is fine as a mother trying to locate her little girl lost, and Menina, in her acting debut, is aces. (PG-13)"

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