The Rich Man's Wife
1996, R, 96 min. Directed by Amy Holden Jones. Starring Halle Berry, Peter Greene, Clive Owen, Christopher McDonald, Clea Lewis.
REVIEWED By Hollis Chacona, Fri., Sept. 20, 1996
There has already been at least one remake of Alfred Hitchcock's deliciously witty, maliciously thrilling Strangers on a Train, and it openly aspired to comedy. The Rich Man's Wife, unfortunately, comes by its many comical moments inadvertently. The plot centers around Josie (Berry), married to older fat cat Tony (McDonald), who apparently drinks excessively, supposedly plays around, and pretty much puts his work before his wife. When a getaway romantic weekend at an isolated cabin ends in a tepid spat, Josie decides to stay behind and frequent the local redneck bar while Tony heads back to work. Downing her Dewars, straight up, Josie is ogled by a shifty-eyed pool player, causing her to beat a fast retreat. Only, on the way home, her open-air jeep breaks down on the foggy, remote, deserted road. Uh-oh. She's “rescued” by Cole (Greene), the ogler from the bar, who, it turns out, is charming and disarming in that portentously creepy kind of way. He convinces Josie to go out to dinner with him the next night. Wuh-oh! After dancing, slowly, suggestively, and seductively with her rescuer, Josie suddenly puts on the brakes and heads back to the table where she waxes pathetic about her pampered, unhappy life. During an interminable, transparent conversation, Cole gets her to admit that yes, she kind of, sort of wished Tony was dead. Duh-oh!! That's the wish this deranged genie, not to mention the audience (who are way, way ahead of Josie), have been waiting for. There ensues no end of long, drawn-out brutality, very little suspense, and one preposterous scene after another. The movie, which waffles constantly in a misguided attempt to be mysteriously misleading, heads nowhere very slowly. Was Tony really a brute or just a poor slob of a guy who needs to read Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus? Is Cole really a monster or just a head-over-heels lunatic? Is Josie a sappy victim or a shrewd villain? No one is what they seem to be because they are essentially nothing. Only Lewis (Ellen) as the totally artificial, utterly avaricious Valley girl, Nora Golden, provides some real humor and a whiff of minty fresh air in a movie that is nothing but stale smoke.