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Friday, November 11, 2005


I realized this week that I am now actually linked directly to the Essex Outlet Cinemas website, so it suddenly seemed more important that I get out and see some new releases to keep the dear readers here apprised of what is shaking at the movies. This week there were five (!) films at the Essex Outlet Cinemas that I hadn't seen, so I am going to do my best to catch up on all of them in the coming two or three days and let you know what I think of them. I love this time of the year. All the good movies start popping up in time for the holidays and the Academy Awards nominations.

Today I saw Derailed. I can't imagine anyone in America doesn't know about Derailed. It has been advertised on television every hour or so for weeks. The drama starring Clive Owen and Jennifer Aniston has also gotten a lot of press stimulated by the fact that the world seemed to have stopped earlier this summer when Brad Pitt rather uncerimoniously dumped his wife of five years for Angelina Jolie, his co-star in the movie Mr. and Mrs. Smith. The country mourned for America's sweetheart, our Jennifer, and her silence in the press about the divorce fed the tabloids and gave them fodder to spin elaborate tales that would have us all believe she is either near suicide or ready to kill. Perhaps that was one of the big draws that had the theater quite full on this Friday afternoon. Maybe the audience wanted to look longingly into Jen's eyes and see if their favorite "friend" was okay. Or maybe they had just been mesmerized by the thousands of tv ads.

On screen, Jen was anything but okay. Shortly after meeting hunky ad-man Charles Schine (played by Clive Owen) on a commuter train the two are contemplating an affair even though both are married with children. Charles is in fact the father of Amy, a teenage girl with Type I Diabetes who has already had three unsuccessful kidney transplants. Amy is now on dialysis at home and Charles and his teacher wife Deanna (played by Melissa George) are stressed out and emotionally distant with one another as they try to cope separately with their careers and their worries about their daughter's declining health. It is obvious they still love one another but they just don't have the time or energy to show it and they've lost "the magic" along the way. What better fuel then for Charles to contemplate a little slap and tickle with his lady on the train Lucinda?

It takes a bit of doing to get to this point as the filmaker, Director Michael Hafstrom, lingers on the Schine family a bit too long for what is promoted as a tense thriller. During the first half hour or so the most tense I got was adjusting to Clive Owen's American accent. I'm digressing here, and I know I do that a lot, but when an actor is so well known as Clive is and the world knows he is British why choose to have him force an accent? It certainly wouldn't have altered the story to have had Charles be British. The villian of this movie is French (we'll get to him in a minute) and there is no attempt made to Americanize him. Maybe that is because the current attitude in the US is that the French are "the bad guys". Whatever.

Back to the story. As soon and Charles and Lucinda give in to their passion and the clothes start to come off things turn ugly, and I'm not talking tattoos and stretchmarks ugly here. Enter Philippe LaRoche, played with excellent slimy appeal by Vincent Cassel. Before Lucinda can even get Charles' belt buckle undone Laroche has a gun to her head and ~~~! You know I can't tell you. It would ruin the moment. Let's just say things get way out of hand. Way, way out of hand. And the story kicks into second gear.

After LaRoche has left and Charles regains consciousness he sends Lucinda home in a cab. He blankly wanders to his office, covered in blood and tells his boss and associates he had been mugged. Then he goes home for some tender loving care from Deanna.

Now obviously this is not nearly the end of the story. It is barely the beginning of this roller coaster ride. Just as Charles settles into his bathtub and is soaking away his aches and pains he is interrupted by a phone call from LaRoche, demanding $20,000 or he will tell Mrs. Schine about Charles' intention to commit adultry with Lucinda. And off we go! Third gear!

For any number of scenes that follow it seems that Charles is showing the audience what not to do when confronted with blackmail. Everything he does makes me wince. He just keeps getting in deeper and deeper. His performance at work suffers dramatically and it seems his only friend is the mailroom clerk, Winston, played with great charm by RZA, the hip hop singer from Wu-Tang Clan. Winston is one of those minor yet important characters that really steals the scene every time he shows up pushing his mail cart by Charles' cubicle. Unfortunately, when Charles engages Winston in helping him to deal with LaRoche (who has now demanded an additional $100,000), things go horribly awry and we hit fourth gear.

About now the film is only halfway through and the twists are only starting to amp up. Soon we have ratcheted past fifth gear and stripped them all. For the sake of keeping the experience a surprise for you I'll not describe any more of the plot except to say there is a whole lot of killing about to erupt. A whole lot. Other than that I'll just tell you that the hype associated with this movie is well-deserved. And, yes, there is even one moment when both my husband and I jumped in our seats. It is a clever, suspenseful story, and when you think it is over there is a bit more to go. By the end you'll leave thinking it may not ever be a good idea to strike up a conversation with a stranger.

Go see Derailed at the Essex Outlet Cinemas. Bring a friend. And don't talk to strangers.

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