Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Sleeping with the Enemy

Movie Name: Sleeping with the Enemy
Year of Release: 1991
Director: Joseph Ruben
Starring: Julia Roberts, Patrick Bergin, Kevin Anderson, Elizabeth Lawrence, Kyle Secor, Claudette Nevins, Tony Abatemarco, Marita Geraghty, Harley Venton
Genre: Drama, Thriller
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 4
Watch it on Amazon

Synopsis and Review:
Actress Julia Roberts was riding a gigantic wave of success when "Sleeping with the Enemy" premiered, further cementing her name as the 90s box office queen (1990 had seen the premiere of Gary Marshall's "Pretty Woman" and Joel Schumacher's "Flatliners", both of which did well at the box office). Directed by Joseph Ruben, well known at the time for "True Believer" and "The Stepfather", "Sleeping with the Enemy" is the story of Laura Burney, a young woman married to an abusive man. In order to escape her hellish situation, she devises a carefully orchestrated plan, and fakes her own death. She moves to a small town, where she rebuilds her life, catching the attention of a young man by the name of Ben, who is smitten with her. While her life slowly gets settled, her husband uncovers, by an unexpected coincidence and a few forgotten details, that Laura may be still alive after all. And he's intent on getting her back.
"Sleeping with the Enemy" is what in the 1940s and 50s would be called an actress "vehicle": a project tailored for a star, capitalizing on her top qualities as a performer. The film is impeccably manufactured, with credit due to Joseph Ruben, who became well known as a director of solid suspense films (even if slightly devoid of a point of view). This is a good example of good craftsmanship: the story is well told, the editing, cinematography, score are all competent. The issue with a film such as this, is the lack of a stronger point of view, something that will make this more viscerally compelling and watchable. As is, it's mostly an opportunity to witness a young actress further cementing her clout and skills, even if the film never quite capitalizes on her acting capabilities. It's a competent thriller, even if slightly forgettable (where even the villain, played by the under-used Patrick Bergin, never gets much to do).