Sleeping With The Enemy Review

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An abused wife seeks shelter from her violent husband, but its not long before he tracks her down.


In a modernist hell-house on the beach, Laura (Roberts), fragile and abused wife of a psychotic commodities dealer (Bergin), plots to leave her monster hubby. He signals his thorough-going-rottenness by putting Berlioz on the CD when they have sex, insisting his meals be served on time, making sure all the cans in the food cupboard are stacked tidily, and beating her up if the towels in the bathroom are out of place. Annoyed, Laura pretends not to be able to swim and fakes a drowning accident, whereupon she hightails it for the mid-West to start all over again with a new name, no identity, and a tentative relationship with the guy next door (Anderson), a drama teacher who signals his thorough-going-niceness by playing Dion and the Belmonts, taking her to funfairs, dressing her up in stage costumes and having a cuddly thirtysomething beard. Naturally, the baddie catches on and sets about tracking our heroine down, with Bergin displaying an ever-more exaggerated clutch of madman twitches and mannerisms.

Joseph Ruben is best known for his masterly The Stepfather, another psycho-thriller about a husband whose demands on his family lead to ultra-violence, but, by comparison, the much starrier, much more elaborate Sleeping With The Enemy is a lightweight, silly film. Whereas Terry O'Quinn's stepfather was one of the subtlest, scariest and most intriguing villains in '80s cinema, Bergin's mad stockbroker - the new 'in' profession for psychotics, as demonstrated by Blue Steel - is just another slasher baddie. With all the things that made The Stepfather interesting trimmed away, you're left with an acceptable but dumb TV movie with a few moments of violence and Julia Roberts in designer peril, draped with frocks only the villain could afford to buy her and even, in one scene, demonstrating her versatility by dressing in drag.

When Bergin is stalking Roberts around a dark house, the film does rev up some suspense, throwing in those false alarm scares that get everyone jumping. However, I am getting extremely fed up with even films I like - Misery, Dead Calm - pulling that tired old Halloween-Fatal Attraction last-minute-return-from-the-dead-for-one-more-cheap-shock stunt, and the use of the device here, following hard on Pacific Heights, does nothing but confirm Jon Polito's advice to would-be murderers in Miller's Crossing, 'always put one in the brain'.

Dump thriller which trivialises the subject matter.