Picks and Pans Review: The Dying Gaul

updated 11/28/2005 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/28/2005 AT 01:00 AM EST

Peter Sarsgaard, Patricia Clarkson, Campbell Scott

[STARS 2.5]

Derailed, Jennifer Aniston's silly, see-through thriller now in theaters, could learn from this elegant suspense film. The Dying Gaul has a plot as implausible as Derailed's and puts its characters through equal melodrama, but it's played with such savvy and commitment that one willingly rides it to the end of the line.

Though much of it takes place in L.A.'s bright sunshine, Gaul is about dark doings. A Hollywood exec (Scott) and his activist wife (Clarkson) befriend a gay screenwriter (Sarsgaard) still grieving over the death of his lover. Soon, hubby has seduced the writer sexually and professionally. Meanwhile, the wife is anonymously messing with his mind online. Nothing good will come of any of this, but writer-director Craig Lucas (who wrote Prelude to a Kiss) keeps you guessing about everyone's intent, and the acting is superlative. (R)

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