Picks and Pans Review: Shining Through

updated 02/10/1992 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/10/1992 AT 01:00 AM EST

Michael Douglas, Melanie Griffith

Watching this draggy adaptation of the Susan Isaacs best-seller, one can only speculate about how things might have been with a different screenplay, a different director and, above all, a different star.

Once again Griffith is an upwardly mobile working girl, Linda Voss, whose luck and pluck lead to adventure—and the love of a man above her station. Half German-Jewish, half Irish, she works as a bilingual secretary for Ed Leland (Michael Douglas), a lawyer turned OSS operative. The two become lovers only to have their romance interrupted by Pearl Harbor and Leland's sub-rosa war work. They reunite at a USO dance, and Linda—though heartbroken by what she views as Leland's callousness—agrees to work for him again, then convinces him to send her to Berlin as a spy.

Little in Griffith's performance, except perhaps her early no-nonsense encounters with Douglas, suggests that she has the right stuff to be a spy. (Indeed, she turns out to be a somewhat inept one.) Her German accent is atrocious, her babyish voice grating enough for a call to arms. But let's be fair about distributing blame. Griffith is not treated kindly by the camera or by a script that requires her to utter such lines as "For me there would be no symphonies with Ed, just the sound of drums as America went to war" and "But, Ed, what's a war for if not to hang on to what we love?"

Director-screenwriter David Seltzer could have done some rewriting or at least discouraged Griffith from reciting the lines as if from cue cards. Douglas does what he can with a sketchily drawn role and has seldom looked better. Joely Richardson is sharply effective as Griffith's friend and fellow spy. But they are fighting a losing battle. Shining Through seems only slightly shorter than the war itself. (R)

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