Synopsis: A Manhattan psychiatrist probes a patient’s murder and falls for the victim’s mysterious mistress.
Stars: Roy Scheider, Meryl Streep, Jessica Tandy, Sara Botsford
Director: Robert Benton
Running Length: 93 minutes
TMMM Score: (6.5/10)
Review: It’s not a huge shocker if you hadn’t heard of this early 80’s thriller. Director Benton was coming off the boffo success of Kramer vs Kramer which netted both him and Streep their first Oscars. Writing specifically for Streep, he gave her a nice role (and a great monologue toward the end) that she filmed before moving on to really becoming MERYL STREEP. It’s not a movie that’s generous with substance and I think nearly 30 years later its lost a great deal of it’s original thrll…but one can imagine this sophisticated mystery being very effective in its day considering the wave of gruesome slasher films being released at the same time.
I remember watching this movie for the first time nearly a decade ago and enjoying it’s brisk feel. Watching it again recently I was struck how pedestrian some of the sequences are with Scheider saying and doing things that make little sense other than to forward the picture to its conclusion. For a psychiatrist that sticks to the ethical code in some situations he’s remarkably forthcoming about patient information and crossing moral lines in others. There are some pacing issues to note, such as Scheider’s covert attempt to break into an office that takes about ten times as long as it should considering the time pressure he’s under. You find yourself as a viewer talking back to the screen, urging him to hurry the heck up. Another issue I had with it was Streep’s incessant action of pushing her hair away from her face…maybe it’s just me but I think she could have rocked a barrette fairly well and still maintained her Hitchock Blonde-like status. Third billed Tandy is wasted here in two short scenes and one wonders if the part was either cut down or not intended for a star of her caliber…but to be fair as popular as Tandy was she really hit a career high in the late 80’s with the one two punch of Driving Miss Daisy and Fried Green Tomatoes. Still, her presence here only reminds me of how much she is missed.
While the film hasn’t aged the best and may have some moments where a good eye roll will help you through, there’s no denying that there are a few spine-tingling moments. Much of this is accomplished with old-fashioned camera work that keeps the audience as in the dark as our characters. Ok, Ok…maybe by the third time a character sees a pitch black hallway and enters anyway you’ll call foul but I dare you not to feel your heart racing a bit. The final ten minutes are pretty nifty…and Streep has a great Scream Queen Scream.
Unavailable on DVD and hard to find on VHS, I saw this again on MGMHD. Try to track this one down…especially if you are a Streep fan. I wonder what she feels about this picture or what her experience was like making it.