28 October 2006 | rsoonsa
Despite A Logic-Lorn Script, A Generally Efficient Production Lifts The Film's Status.
A woman erotically obsessed with a married man who has spurned her aggressive advances has prepared for her own ostensible murder by him, an act that severely interferes with the existence of her ardour's target, forensic psychiatrist Philip Benesch (Powers Boothe), who is suspected by police detectives as indeed being her killer. This then becomes the foundation for a consistently engaging and suspenseful film originally produced for television airing. Doctor Benesch is an employee of the San Francisco Police Department, married and with two young daughters, but nonetheless harbours inclinations to stray into extramarital affairs until his wife Ellen (Pam Dawber), finally discovering proof of one of them, a fling with another psychiatrist (Rosalind Chao). While Philip and Ellen are working toward a reconciliation, an overheated court reporter, Corrie (Lisa Collins), begins to romantically pursue Benesch, but he refuses to begin a relationship with her, because of a sincere desire to save his marriage. Following Corrie's death that she has designed to appear as a homicide committed by Benesch, he finds that he must dedicate himself to saving his own life, eventually persuading his friend as well as defense attorney in the Corrie case, played by Bradley Whitford, to give Philip assistance with detective work into the shadowy background of the deceased erotomaniac. The script is uneven, treating its critical element, the death of Corrie, in a melodramatically careless manner, particularly in its relation to police procedures, as well as to the slaying itself, but the relationships among Benesch, his wife, and his children, in addition to his friends and colleagues, make for an engrossing and at times pleasingly literate work, with able acting serving to overcome scenario weaknesses. Directed effectively by Richard Colla, the work benefits as well from top-flight cinematography of James Carter, including especially well-done closeups, a splendid score from Bob Alcivar, and skillful designing. All of the cast are to be commended, with acting honours going to Dawber for her nicely detailed turn in a challenging role. The DVD release is of generally fine visual quality, although red tones and shadows take over the screen upon occasion, while audio fidelity suffers some muffling, but solely towards the film's beginning. Liner notes identify Benesch as Philip "Pearloff", while his daughters are given yet another surname in the closing credits. In spite of these drawbacks, and the slick evasions of the script, there are numerous acute touches provided through many earnest performances. In sum, this is an entertaining and intense thriller that, one can say, is an artistic success in spite of itself.