MOVIE REVIEW : A Thriller for the Easily ‘Deceived’


The problem with “Deceived” (citywide) is that it’s not nearly deceptive enough. A thriller for those who are not difficult to thrill, its exposition lags so far behind what an audience can figure out that it ends up being more irritating than intriguing.

Which is a shame, because the premise of the Mary Agnes Donoghue and Derek Saunders screenplay is a provocative one. How much, after all, do we really know about the people we marry, the people we agree to join lives with? What if, years later, they turn out to be nothing at all like what they at first seemed to be?

When Adrienne, a beautiful young art restorer (there’s a new one) first sees handsome Jack Saunders, he is dining alone and she is waiting for a blind date who never shows. He then turns up by coincidence at her office with a Greek amphora in desperate need of repair. Soon they are staying up all night sharing confidences and Chinese take-out food. “What are you doing for the rest of your life?” he asks her. Really. The next thing you know, they’ve been happily married for six years with the requisite clever young daughter to show for it.


All this, obviously, is going to be too good to be true, otherwise why would the film be called “Deceived” in the first place? But casting John Heard as kind, considerate husband Jack is, and not for the last time, telegraphing the film’s intentions far too obviously. Though Heard is a more than capable actor, he practically has a “Don’t Trust Me” sign tacked on his on-screen persona.

And sure enough, Adrienne (Goldie Hawn) soon begins not to trust him. He buys her sexy lingerie (which she obligingly models for us) in one city and claims it came from another. She finds suspicious business cards and even more suspicious hotel mints in his jacket pockets. Somewhere involved in all this is a murder in a museum and a necklace that, like Jack, may not be all that it’s cracked up to be. What the dickens is going on, anyway?

The truth is, you really don’t want to know. The twists and turns of this plot alternate between being contrived and being too obvious, not the best of combinations. Judging by her work in “Paradise,” it is reasonable to conjecture that Donoghue’s original script was more psychologically attuned than what we have here. Hawn, too, deserves better. She works hard in her role as the deceivee, but the script really doesn’t have very much for her to do except look lost, bewildered and unhappy.

A good part of the blame for the sins of “Deceived” (MPAA-rated PG-13) must go to director Damian Harris. With one previous feature film (“The Rachel Papers”) to his credit, his work seems awkward and unfocused, and he lacks the kind of innate panache another one-film director, Kenneth Branagh, brought to the fairly implausible “Dead Again.” The problem with “Deceived” is not only its implausibilities and inconsistencies--all thrillers have them--but also the fact that it is not made well enough to cover them up.


Goldie Hawn Adrienne

John Heard: Jack Saunders

Ashley Peldon: Mary Saunders

Robin Bartlett: Charlotte

A Touchstone Pictures presentation in association with Silver Screen Partners IV, released by Buena Vista. Director Damian Harris. Producers Michael Finnell, Wendy Dozoretz and Ellen Collett. Executive producers Teri Schwartz and Anthea Sylbert. Screenplay by Mary Agnes Donoghue and Derek Saunders, from a story by Mary Agnes Donoghue. Cinematographer Jack N. Green. Editor Neil Travis. Costumes Linda Matheson. Music Thomas Newman. Production design Andrew McAlpine. Art director Gregory P. Keen. Set decorator Gordon Sim. Running time: 1 hour, 42 minutes.

MPAA-rated PG-13.