SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY

Joseph Ruben’s would-be riveting thriller is in fact a goofy, haphazard tale of female victimization, spousal abuse, faking ones death, running from your violent, obsessive-compulsive sociopath of a husband, and trying to move on with your life in a new town and new relationship, and the empowerment that comes with such a feit. Such is the plight of one Laura Burney (Julia Roberts), the lovely young wife of Martin Burney (Patrick Bergin), the deeply disturbed investment counselor who seems to view her as more of a possession and a slave than an equal or even simply his wife. Laura has a life-long fear of water, which Martin has been trying to cure for who knows how long. One night, in the middle of a thunder storm, the couple ventures out in a sailboat with their attractive young neighbor (Kyle Secor) and Laura is lost at sea – on purpose. She swims to a buoy and gets away, moving to Iowa to live out a new existence as a small town librarian. There, she meets a kind but slightly creepy college drama teacher (Kevin Anderson) and begins to feel at ease again. Soon, however, her evil husband inevitably discovers her deception and is hot on her trail – he haunts her blind mother who lives in a nursing home and searches high and low for her. Will he track her down, resulting in a violent and unsatisfactory showdown in a large, darkened house? Did you pay your price of admission? Joseph Ruben is the man who directed “The Stepfather” (1987), another violent, exploitation melodrama involving a psychopath who finds a way to terrorize those close to him. This may be a step down, believe it or not. Roberts (“Pretty Woman”) is a fresh-faced beauty, but we never really come to know or care for her. The closest we come to “liking” her is a musical sequence of trying on costumes backstage as her boyfriend’s theater. Bergin is just repellant as the viciously terrible husband – even the way he drinks from a waterfountain is profoundly creepy. Anderson isn’t terrible as the potential new love interest in Laura’s new, boring life, but this is 99 minutes of sleaze disguised as female empowerment. Yuck.

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