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Pretty Bad85.71%
Total Crap: 14.29%

1 review, 1 rating

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Consenting Adults
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Jack Sommersby

"Ludicrous Domestic Thriller"
2 stars

Off of an eighteen-million-dollar budget, it just barely earned that back with a box-office take of just under twenty-two million.

There’s a potentially interesting lead character in the person of Richard Parker in the thriller Consenting Adults, but the actor portraying him, Kevin Kline, remains a dead weight throughout. When playing eccentric characters in comedies like A Fish Called Wanda (which earned him an Oscar) and Soapdish (which should’ve earned an Oscar nomination), Kline displays a magical combination of alacrity and imagination that steals the show, but when he’s played straight-laced characters in the dramas Cry Freedom and Grand Canyon (with Silverado the lone exception) he’s unaccountably drab and placid -- it’s as if he intentionally sublimates his alert reserve because he’s playing a “serious” role. Richard is a talented Atlanta musician who’s sold himself out for easy money as a composer of jingles for television commercials, and at the beginning of the movie, when he’s having trouble coming up with something adequate even for a mediocre skiing-equipment ad, we can see he’s lost all taste for the work. Financially overextended with a fancy house in his neighborhood cul-de-sac and twenty-five-thousand in debt, Richard has become the ultimate suburban milquetoast, drifting through life in a job he hates with a fourteen-year marriage to wife Priscilla (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) that has long lost its sparkle; he goes to bed in light-blue pajamas and awakens knowing the best part of the day is when he can get back into bed. Granted, Kline’s colorless performance initially makes dramatic sense even if he’s not the best at expressively conveying inexpressiveness; we’re left to assume there’s a buried side to him that will awaken and command attention later on down the line, and it just doesn’t happen, which is a considerable demerit in that he’s the hero of the piece who’s supposedly clever enough to outwit his supposedly brilliant counterpart. Out of nowhere, one Eddie Otis (Kevin Spacey), a brazen financial advisor with self-confidence to spare, moves in next door with his attractive blonde trophy wife Kay (Rebecca Miller); the couples strike up an instant rapport, with Richard fascinated by Eddie’s freewheeling existence and disregard for convention Richard thinks all “responsible” men should adhere to. Eddie sees caution as a limitation, and he eggs on Richard to drop his prudish ways and indulge in some wife-swapping, slipping into bed with the other’s spouse while she’s asleep in the middle of the night (“You think you can be alive without taking risks”); and even Priscilla, who Richard doesn’t tell of Eddie’s dare, is susceptible to his charms (“No, he might not always plays by the rules, but at least he’s in the game”). Fed up with Eddie’s relentless taunts, Richard temporarily distances himself from him but eventually rekindles their friendship and takes Eddie up on his proposal, and soon thereafter finds himself in a world of trouble with a homicide wrap with solid evidence against him and a one-point-five-million-dollar double-indemnity claim figuring into the mix. And the movie, which thus far has been reasonably plausible, steadily self-destructs in a plethora of eye-rolling inanities.

The screenwriter, Michael Chapman, who penned the idiotic Bruce Willis star vehicle Color of Night, isn’t particularly strong when it comes to story construction, and he hasn’t even remotely bothered to cover the script’s numerous logic loopholes (the villain just happens to correctly guess which night Richard chooses to wife-swap; and the villain just happens not to off his co-conspirator in his scheme just so she can be killed later on down the line for the sole sake of padding out the running time.) The movie is a blatant byproduct of the box-office smash Fatal Attraction, only it’s minus the eroticism and suspense, not to mention the three-dimensional characters that gave that flawed but engrossing tale a fair amount of power. Of course, an audience can still be taken in by a thriller if it’s well-engineered enough, but director Alan J. Pakula’s work here is strictly second-rate. Pakula’s previous thrillers, Klute and The Parallax View, didn’t have the sturdiest of scripts, but, due to the director’s acute control over them, we were so mesmerized we didn’t really care; but as was also the case with his Rollover and Dream Lover, Pakula can sometimes remain aloof when executing material he has no particular affection for. Scene after scene of Consenting Adults lacks both tautness and definition. Working with the cinematographer Stephen Goldblatt, Pakula has piled on neo-noir to an extreme, with the interior of Eddie’s home bathed in lurid, moody red light right out of a New Orleans bordello for cheap ominous effect; and though he’s employed his usual composer, Michael Small, the amateurish music score punctures rather than punctuates the proceedings. (Pakula’s idea of “wit” is having Richard coming into the kitchen the morning after he’s had sex with another woman from behind where Priscilla is reading a newspaper with a “Back Door Sale” ad clearly visible on the back page!) And anyone who’s applauded Pakula’s work in the past certainly can’t aver he’s adept with action sequences, with a pathetic one late in the game so clunkily staged it’s downright embarrassing -- we’re not shown how someone bound with rope manages to unbound herself, or how the villain, armed with an Uzi, could possibly miss a dead-bang shot from just a few feet away. With the dull-as-dishwater Kline making quite the pasty hero (not a pretty sight, his trying to convey sexual arousal looks more like constipation), Consenting Adults badly needs a dynamic villain, and though the role is far from well-written, the game Spacey, who managed to make an indelible impression in one-scene appearances early in his career as the subway thief in Heartburn and the sleazy corporate executive in Working Girl, has an understated intensity that promises a lot more than the movie is able to deliver. The only time Spacey falters is when he’s been directed to act the wild-eyed madman during the conclusion that would defeat any actor; he’s got timing and control and some style, and unless he makes it a habit of choosing dreck like this, he should have a very interesting future.

The DVD offers up a perfectly fine transfer, though in the special-features department all you get is a theatrical trailer.

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originally posted: 02/20/15 04:43:23
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User Comments

2/13/17 morris campbell dull domestic thriller if u can call it that 1 stars
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  16-Oct-1992 (R)



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