Sunday 26 April 2015

Movie Review: Consenting Adults (1992)

A klutzy thriller with an uneven tone, Consenting Adults tries to convey a slick erotic vibe but then morphs into ridiculous murder territory and sinks under the weight of its misguided pretensions.

Richard and Priscilla Parker (Kevin Kline and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) are a typical suburban couple, working in the music industry, raising their daughter, grappling with some debt issues, and dealing with a passion-reduced marriage. Eddie and Kay Otis (Kevin Spacey and Rebecca Miller) move in as the new couple next door. Eddie is a fast-talking, risk-taking bundle of energy, with a solution to every problem, no qualms about bending the law, and a pushy personality.

The two couples become friends, and Richard can't help but be attracted to the winsome Kay, an amateur blues singer with a husky voice. Eddie pulls an insurance scam to generate some quick money for the Parkers, and then starts to hint at a wife-swap, initially horrifying Richard. But sensing that Priscilla may be open to the experience, Richard warms up to the idea. Then a bloody murder is committed, turning Richard's life completely upside down.

Directed by Alan J. Pakula, the first 45 minutes of Consenting Adults is a fairly interesting exploration of close to middle age angst, and the pressures of work, kids, and finances as they attack the stability of a marriage and leave it vulnerable to outside temptations. Eddie is a catalyst to stir the Parker relationship, and stir he does. Eddie offers a window into an attractive lifestyle where, with just a bit of innovative skirting of societal laws, everything can be refreshed.

The first half of the film peaks with the promise of the Parkers succumbing to sexual experimentation as the next step in spicing up their lives towards the dark side, and then the film falls apart. Whether or not intended as a clumsy thou-shall-pay-the-price-for-coveting-thy-neighbour's-wife morality tale, Consenting Adults jettisons all its thoughtful content and disintegrates into cheap, large plot-hole filled murder and mayhem territory, culminating in asinine Ramboesque infiltrations and no less a weapon than an Uzi submachine gun making a late appearance to settle scores.

Kevin Kline delivers what must be one the worst performances of his career. He spends the first half of the film in a dumbfounded, dormant trance, before suddenly turning into an action hero with Bruce Willis capabilities. Kevin Spacey dominates with his excitable portrayal of Eddie, an infectious personality that devours life. But even Eddie falls off the cliff of sanity, along with the back-half of the film. Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio and Rebecca Miller are fine, but also underutilized. Forest Whitaker as an insurance company investigator and E.G. Marshall as a crusty lawyer make late appearances before disappearing into irrelevance, making way for the flying bullets and swinging baseball bats.

Consenting Adults is frozen between attempted cerebral thriller and botched cretinous action, and is finally just caught with its pants down.

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