What Lies Beneath (SE)/B,A
Dreamworks/2000/130/ANA 2.35

      I am getting used to modern suspense films that fail to exhibit restraint .In trying to mine the last drop from his material ,director Robert Zemeckis'  What Lies Beneath becomes overlong and over indulgent. It also suffers from a sense of redundancy.  What Lies Beneath is part "weeper" in tone, as a successful professor and his beautiful, talented wife face a romantic crisis.  It builds the case for a supernatural thriller with certain skill; it's when it finally gets there that it bogs down in its own muddied waters.

Mirror, mirror in every scene. Dreamworks

    Claire and Norman Spencer live in a wonderful neo gothic home overlooking a Vermont lake. Norman is one of the darlings of the genetics world, approaching some breakthrough research. Their lives are about to change as their daughter leaves for college. A new neighbor moves in next door and provides some minor entertainment, but the lonely house just isn't the same anymore. There are constant references to a terrible auto accident Claire has had, and what does it all have to do with Claire's former marriage. The story closes tightly around Claire and the house and explodes from there.
     There are very few characters that get much screen time in What Lies Beneath. Michelle Pfeiffer playing Claire must carry the film on her delicate shoulders, and while it's a heavy task, she's quite up to it. Pfeiffer does exhibit restraint. Though she is a very expressive actress, she contains her mannerisms effectively, and happily, is seldom too coy. Harrison Ford plays Norman Spencer. Ford and Pfeiffer in a romantic thriller: sounds like great chemistry. Ford, however, does not score as well as Pfeiffer. He often rings false. He's almost oily, as if he knows that something is amiss with his character. But we are not supposed to know it. Is this the guy Claire fell in love with, was swept off her feet by, the golden boy of the halls of ivy?
     Robert Zemeckis is a talented director. He makes what he can of the script, but that's what keep the film from really flying. It's funny, I do think the film would have been better as a traditional forties weeper. Keep the suspense, but let it lead somewhere else. Maybe she really is going nuts. I can hear the violins now.
      Beautifully restrained, this transfer shows virtually no undue edginess. The image is very film-like without getting soft. Colors are well saturated and used to fine effect. Check out the brilliant garden colors. Steam flows with perfect grace and nothing is loft in its mist. Shadow detail is excellent. Fine, rich blacks, excellent indoor and outdoor balance of look, and light output to spare are all positives in this outstanding DVD. Delivered in both Dolby Digital 5:1 and DTS Surround in an excellent mix. Peripheral sounds are located for maximum effect. Overall ambiance is outstanding.
      Audio commentary from Robert Zemeckis, and producers Steve Starkey and Jack Rapke is the core of this special edition from Dreamworks. Hitchcock comes up a number of times in the commentary as a source of inspiration for the production. The behind the scenes featurette from HBO provides a nice look at Zemeckis' career.
     The menu system is another intricate affair that takes too long for my purposes. I am growing frustrated with the inflated frills of menus.

 

 


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