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The Hand That Rocks the Cradle

Rated R, 110 min. Directed by Curtis Hanson. Starring Annabella Sciorra, Rebecca De Mornay, Matt McCoy, Ernie Hudson.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Jan. 10, 1992

When Claire Bartel (Sciorra) and her yuppie husband Michael (McCoy) find themselves in need of a nanny for their young daughter Emma and newborn Joe, they hire gorgeous Peyton Flanders (De Mornay), seemingly unperturbed by the fact that this woman has shown up at their doorstep uninvited. Are real people this trusting when dealing with child care? Hopefully not, but for plot purposes, screenwriter Amanda Silver has given us a pair of dangerously-dense parents from the get-go. I mean, what were these two thinking? Naturally, the new nanny has a hidden agenda of her own, one that revolves around her conviction that mom Claire is more or less responsible for the death of Peyton's own husband and the miscarriage of her child. She's more than a few cards short of a full deck (hardly enough cards there to satisfy a Penn & Teller trick, I'd hazard), and it's a hoot to watch gorgeous De Mornay run around acting like Hell's own baby sitter. As she systematically goes to the task of destroying her employer's family from within, De Mornay actually gets in some fine acting, and I even (momentarily) forgot about her disastrous turn in the remake of …And God Created Woman. Sciorra (Jungle Fever) is her typically florid self here, playing the devoted mom whose worst nightmare blossoms into reality when she accepts this stranger into her home. Although their story is a good one, screenwriter Silver hastily glosses over the inherently arresting aspects of maternal responsibility and the intense guilt feelings that often arise when working parents must decide how best to raise their children. As the husband, Matt McCoy is the worst part of the film, stunningly unbelievable with his cozy platitudes and fuzzy facial fur. Yecch-o-rama, folks. Director Hanson gave it his best shot -- that much is obvious -- but The Hand that Rocks the Cradle is far too similar to Joel Rubin's The Stepfather and other films that deal with the introduction of “the Other” into a family setting. Hell of a nice try, but I've seen it all before.
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