Friday, 13 November 2015

Movie Review: The Rich Man's Wife (1996)


A floundering damsel-in-distress thriller, The Rich Man's Wife is an incompetent mess. Despite the presence of Halle Berry and Clive Owen, the story of a woman accused of planning the murder of her husband barely rises above bad TV movie standards.

Josie (Berry) is being interrogated by police detectives, and the movie unfolds as one long flashback. Josie's marriage to hard-drinking businessman Tony (Christopher McDonald) is in trouble, with both of them having affairs on the side. Her lover is Jake (Clive Owen), a restaurant owner frustrated at waiting for Josie to leave Tony. In an attempt to reignite the passion in her marriage, Josie suggests to Tony a vacation getaway, and they head to a secluded cabin in the woods. But Tony's business interferes, he return to the city and she stays behind, feeling angry and abandoned.

At the local bar Josie meets and flirts with the rough-around-the-edges local man Cole (Peter Greene), and after drinking heavily, she suggests that she would not mind seeing her husband dead. Cole suggests that he may be able to oblige. Josie is horrified, and then has to fend off Cole when he tries to rape her. She returns to the city and tries to mend the relationship with Tony, but all goes wrong when Cole re-emerges, guns down Tony, and starts to extort Josie.

Directed and written by Amy Holden Jones, The Rich Man's Wife fails on all counts. By starting the movie with Josie safe and sound albeit in police custody, she is effectively shielded from any serious harm throughout the flashback. Therefore all the scenes that throw her into danger lose most of their dangerous bite. But the trouble with the film runs much deeper. The script is simply inept, with lines of dialogue at the juvenile level, and the story never shakes the stench of a really cheap Strangers On A Train rip-off.

The characters are provided with the shallowest of backstories, if at all, and this is a film where every logical course of action by Josie is studiously avoided in favour of the worst possible decision to get herself into deeper trouble.

Jones tries to have it all ways with her heroine, portraying Josie as a victim, a seductress, an adulteress, and a conniver. Despite Halle Berry's decent efforts, the mix simply does not work, and Josie never evolves into a credible woman. A final-scene supposed twist in the tail involving lover Jake's ex-wife Nora (Clea Lewis) is stunningly misguided, and makes matters much worse for the characters' credibility. The three supporting male performances by Greene as the sneering bad guy, Owen as the sensitive lover and McDonald as the over-stressed husband, are strictly stereotypical.

The Rich Man's Wife gives the impression of having started life as a bad network TV movie-of-the-week premise. Despite adding a couple of violent scenes and two promising stars in Berry and Owen, the film falls far short of rising above what should have been its natural habitat.






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