Directed By: Joseph Ruben
Screenplay By: Ronald Bass
Based upon the novel by Nancy Price
Produced By: Leonard Goldberg
Cast: Julia Roberts, Patrick Bergin, Kevin Anderson
MPAA Rating: R
Runtime: 99 minutes
Review Date: January 28, 2011
Sleeping with the Enemy is by no means a good movie, but that doesn’t mean it’s unwatchable. It begins promisingly enough, but then it rapidly heads for the hills that call themselves mundane. Simply put, I was kind of bored during this film, but I never found myself looking at the time. I was too busy rolling my eyes.
The film stars Julia Roberts at the peak of her star power. Having won over audiences in Pretty Woman, it comes as no surprise that this film pulled in over 9 figures. She plays a woman named Laura who takes up about 95% of the frames in this film, and all for the better. She is really the only saving grace in what is a routine, by-the-numbers thriller that literally bellows “cliché”.
The first five minutes of the film depict Laura as a happy housewife in a marvelously perfect home, situated on the wavy bay of Cape Cod. The cabinet is stocked with food, the flowers on the counter are fresh, and the paintings on the wall cost a cool 100 G’s. After all, her husband (Patrick Bergin) is a successful broker. What could go wrong? Oh, maybe just the fact that her husband is a raging, OCD lunatic. I kid you not, our sociopath of the hour is man whose trademark is his precise and orderly nature (i.e., all canned foods must be label front, the towels must align). Go figure.
All is made clear in the film’s sixth minute, when her husband strikes her brutally for gazing too long at the neighbors. The scene was a shocker and it came as a total surprise to me. I was genuinely intrigued, and I had safely assumed that I was about to witness a tragic and expository narrative of an abused wife. Instead, I got a dumbed down script aimed at the tween crowd.
After she fakes her own death, she escapes to a country-bumpkin town in the Midwest. Here, she finds a modest home for the inescapably peculiar price of $700 a month and meets a new man named Ben (Kevin Anderson), a soft-spoken but honest drama teacher. He is the total next-door type, and he and Laura craft zero chemistry. Like oil and water, these two.
Still, they give it their all. She bakes him a sumptuous apple pie, and he burns the pot roast. She cries, and he listens. She says she isn’t ready, and he completely understands. It’s all by the book, but it could have worked had the two actors built at least some connection between one another. It becomes glaringly clear during an absurd scene near the end of the second act when Laura and Ben and dance around giddily and try on costumes. Why is a woman who is still recovering from a gnarly bruise on her forehead dancing around with a man she barely knows?
It isn’t long before her husband catches wind of her deceit, and he soon is hot on her trail. While I must certainly give credit to Patrick Bergin for trying to instill his character with psychotic rage and instability, his performance is too one-note. The character, simply put, is just too evil. I couldn’t stand the guy, which is fine, but he should have at least been funny or delivered his lines in a way that wasn’t invariably monotonous.
The film finally picks up speed near the climax when Laura, her husband, and Ben confront one another. The scenes move quickly with a breathless, tense pace that almost (I stress almost) had me on the edge of my seat. These last ten minutes, in addition to that powerful scene near the film’s beginning, offered small flashes of ingenuity that were otherwise hampered by the excessive soap and dull weight that was the rest of the film. If you love Lifetime, you will love this movie.
Kyle Kogan is a film critic living in Chicago.