Picks and Pans Review: Damage

updated 01/18/1993 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/18/1993 AT 01:00 AM EST

Jeremy Irons, Miranda Richardson, Juliette Binoche

This adaptation of the best-selling novel by Josephine Hart would play better in French with English subtitles; then and only then might the audience be lulled into believing that something is happening onscreen. Something steamy, something sexy, something, anything. As it is, Damage is an anemic, muted muddle.

Irons, on the cusp of his 50th birthday, is a respected Member of Parliament who has been tagged for higher office. He has a supportive wife (the excellent Richardson) and two children. But clearly something is missing. How else to explain why, when introduced to his son's enigmatic girlfriend at a party, he is smitten. Then, without further ado, or even fore play, he becomes embroiled in an obsessive affair with her. But the bewitched Irons should beware. Binoche confides that her brother harbored an obsession for her that led to his suicide. Later she issues a warning: "Damaged people are dangerous. They know they can survive."

Irons hears but does not listen, continuing the relationship even when his son announces the couple's engagement. Director Louis Malle, who has made his share of movies dealing with unconventional love, among them Pretty Baby and Murmur of the Heart, has been ill-served by his source material, a most pretentious novel. Nor has he been helped by David Hare's elliptical screenplay or by Binoche, who is unable to convey a sense of danger—a sense that she is, quite literally, a femme fatale. (R)

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