Picks and Pans Review: The Patron Saint of Liars
Could there be a television character more exasperating than the cutesy Ally McBeal? You bet. Meet Rose Cleardon, the runaway wife played by Dana Delany (China Beach) in this quirky TV-movie adaptation of Ann Patchett's 1992 novel. Early one morning in 1981, Rose leaves her nice, nebbishy husband (John Putch) because, as she tells the family priest, "I don't love him." She hasn't even informed her spouse that she's two months pregnant by him. To ensure that he never find her, Rose flees from the couple's California digs to a remote Kentucky home for unwed mothers run by an order of Catholic nuns (including Family's Sada Thompson as Rose's stout confidante). Soon the home's studly yet chaste handyman, Son (Clancy Brown), is proposing marriage, unaware Rose is already wed. Nevertheless, she says yes; then, a few years later, she lets Son and her daughter live alone in the house they've inherited from an eccentric neighbor (Ellen Burstyn) while Rose, without explanation, moves into Son's old cottage just down the hill.
At this point your humble reviewer was banging his head against the wall, wailing, "What is this woman's problem?" Delany's chilly, remote portrayal reveals nothing of the demons that drive Rose. What she needs, obviously, is a good therapist—or else a cathartic session with Oprah Winfrey.