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Sleeping with the Enemy

Posted by martinteller on December 13, 2013

Laura Burney (Julia Roberts) seems to have it all, living a life of leisure in a modern, beautiful beach house with her successful husband Martin (Patrick Bergin).  But behind closed doors, Martin is a sadistic, obsessive, manipulative control freak who regularly beats Laura and threatens to find her and kill her if she ever leaves him.  But Laura risks everything by faking her own death and escaping to small town Iowa, ready to start a new life.  She resists but ultimately falls for her neighbor Ben (Kevin Anderson).  But the possibility of being discovered is an ever-present threat, and Martin is soon on her trail.

As a thriller, this movie is perhaps a bit predictable but fun.  Roberts is in fine form, conveying the fear that shadows her without resorting to a false moment of sudden empowerment.  Bergin takes a role that is almost too nasty to be credible and tears into it with creepy gusto.  I joked with my girlfriend that it would be great if the movie ended with Martin coming to his senses and asking himself “What the hell am I doing?” but of course that’s not why we watch this type of picture.  The tension builds well as Martin closes in on his prey, getting more devious and psychotic with every step.

Where the film falters most is Ben.  Man, this character (and the actor portraying him) is a dud.  Of course he’s a drama teacher, and of course he juggles, and of course he loves “West Side Story”.  Of course he cooks… and of course he botches it, because that’s ever so endearing.  His hair (see photo) is ridiculous even for 1991.  This guy is just plain unappealing, likely the worst romantic co-lead Roberts has ever been paired with.  He’s a pile of “nice guy” clichés but in a way he’s just as creepy as Martin.  In fact, it would have been a more interesting turn of events if he turned out to be just as bad (and really, he seems like the type who might snap when things don’t go his way), establishing a pattern of Laura’s failing to see beneath the surface and then falling into abusive relationships.  At least the film didn’t use Ben in the way I feared it would, so that’s something.  Still, most of the scenes with this guy are pretty lousy.  Ugh, that hat montage.

People talk about “turn your brain off” entertainment.  I think I’m just not wired that way, but there is some campy appeal to this, like a movie you catch on late night cable and get your popcorn on.  Rating: Fair (62)


2 Responses to “Sleeping with the Enemy”

  1. Mary said

    Totally with you on the ben character. He was so pushy and perverse. She literally has to push him away. And then she apologizes. I really wish shed told him to take a hike at th end.

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