Sleeping With The Enemy previewed, plus reviews of Quick Change, Riff-Raff. Scenes From A Mall
and White Palace. INDEX 18 LISTINGS 24
Trouble and strife
The unstoppable rise of tyro filmstar Julia Roberts continues with a ' thriller about the tribulations ofan unwise marriage. Allan Hunter met l Sleeping With The Enemy’s director Joseph Ruben, a man familiar with
both nuptual and commercial ; failure.
Somehow. it‘s difficult to think ofdirector Joseph Ruben as a passionate defender of the institution
ofmarriage. In his best known film The Stepfather _
(1987). Terry ()‘Quinn spent his days in search of perfect domestic harmony. only to erupt into knife-wielding violence towards his new-found loved ones. Now. in the box-office smash Sleeping ‘ With The Enemy. flavour of the month Julia Roberts has to fake her own death to escape the ‘ sleazy sadism of her domineering husband Patrick Bergin. who proves tiresomely resolute in his subsequent efforts to track her down and exact revenge.
It‘s hardly a rosy-eyed romantic‘s vision of happy~ever-after love and. in person. Ruben reveals a certain disillusionment with the concept. ' ‘In a way. my strongest feeling is that I wish I was in a successful marriage with three kids and a very strong. warm family.‘ he says. ‘I believe in that but I don‘t see successful marriages too often. The Stepfather was definitely about the notion that you want a family but can‘t have it. Sleeping With The Enemy is about a serious subject — a woman being dominated sexually. emotionally and psychologically — but I didn‘t want it to be heavy-handed. I wanted it to be a thriller that is kind ofplayful.‘
What Ruben describes as playful. others may judge crass. Sleeping With The Enemy seems to exhibit many of the compromises of a director who has seen his career escalate from comparatively low-budget work like Dreamscape ( 1985). The Stepfather and the little-seen True Beliet'er(1989) to the heights ofdirecting the new Julia Roberts 1 film. The result is a very slick. commercial product i that nods to Hitchcock. rips off Les Dllll)()llqll(’5 for the umpteenth time and includes the inevitable. sharply edited rock‘n‘roll number in which ourJulia looks cute as she tries on a 1 wardrobe of fetching clothes and falls in love. The 7 film grossed $80 million dollars this spring and has i given Ruben his biggest commercial success ever. but subtle it ain‘t.
Originally developed as a vehicle for Kim
Basinger. with Sean Connery pencilled in as the brutal husband. the film marks another step forward for the career of Patrick Bergin. who is soon to clash with Kevin Costner for the mantle of the big screen‘s new Robin Hood. Unsuprisingly. there were few American stars willing to risk their popularity as the man who punches Ms Roberts.
‘Everyone we approached was really scared of hitting a woman on screen.‘ Ruben confirms. ‘Patrick has a very unusual presence. He‘s actually a very nice guy. but he made some definite adjustments in how he moved and how he talked. to get that anal compulsiveness. and audiences— particularly women — just know he‘s bad from the beginning.‘
As for Roberts. whose box-office Midas touch is becoming an industry by-word. Ruben has nothing but praise.
‘l‘ve thought about it a lot because I've never seen anything like this. She makes an incredible connection with the audience; they just like her so much. She doesn‘t even know how good she is. She is one of those actors who can‘t make a false move. She’s just very true emotionally and got the scene right very easily and very quickly. And she‘s only
Accustomed to making films that are critically well received but fare less well commercially. Ruben could become cheerfully accustomed to the opposite scenario. which is what has befallen him with Sleeping With The Enemy. However. even he takes pause for thought at the lowest common denominator instincts of the average American audience for a popular movie.
‘An American audience screams and shouts and cheers. It’s like a football game With some audiences you don‘t hear any of the dialogue in the last few minutes at all. I was hoping there might be some ambiguity in the final confrontation that would make the audience wonder ifshe has the right to take his life. but they‘re just out there hollering “Kill him! Kill him!“ It‘s very exciting because it means that the film is working. but it‘s also a little scary because of the bloodlust there. ' However. American audiences are just very basic. Maybe in Europe there will be a slightly more ambiguous. cerebral response.‘
Sleeping With The Enemy goes (m wide general j release from Fri 19 April.
The List 19 April — 2 May 199i 17