Picks and Pans Review: Strapless

updated 06/04/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/04/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Blair Brown, Bruno Ganz

Diehard fans of TV's Molly Dodd should enjoy this chance to see its leading lady emote at length. Others should think twice.

The movie, written and directed by Brown's former flame, playwright David Hare, is a cross between a soap opera and a genteel version of the sexist Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!

Brown plays a doctor in a London hospital who is so dumb she falls abjectly for a bizarre man, Ganz (Wings of Desire), because he courts her so stubbornly. While she's coping with Ganz, Brown also faces a hospital funding crisis and hassles with her young sister, Bridget Fonda, a feckless, unmarried, pregnant clothes designer.

The only saving grace is that Hare writes with such wit and finesse. When Ganz keeps badgering her, Brown says, "Do you ever stop asking questions?" and he replies innocently, "What do you mean?"

In another scene Brown, mooning about relationships, sighs and says, "I like the early days, when love is given freely."

The end blends sappiness, equivocation and a misguided idea about dresses that gives Hare both his title and a supposed parallel for his theme of inexplicable love. Fonda finally designs a line of mostly strapless gowns, about which she says, "They shouldn't stay up, but they do." While Hare can be forgiven for being obsessed with the subject, it's no mystery why strapless dresses stay up. The reasons have to do with stays, zippers, contouring and friction. If only romantic obsession could be explained away so easily. (R)

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