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February 12, 1991 - Image 8

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1991-02-12

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ARTS
'The Michigan Daily Tuesday, February 12, 1991 -

Page 8

Roberts beaten, stalked, and still pretty

Theater Review
Doing a Line

'

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Sleeping with the
Enemy
dir. Joseph Ruben
by Jen Bilik
T he P.R. powers-that-be of
Sleeping with the Enemy edited a
gripping preview that's actually
more compelling than the film it-
self: Julia Roberts flipping her hair
to Van Morrison's "Brown Eyed
Girl" until - boom - she's being
stalked. "I had a husband," she
whispers. "He hurt me."
In the real film, the sequence of
events is reversed so that we first
see Roberts' Laura, a battered wife
married to a controlling, anal re-
tentive sugar-monster. After she
fakes her own death and moves to
Iowa, we then see her as Sara,
playing dress-up (dijd vu?) to the
song that inspired us to shoot our
week's allowance in the first
place. The effect fizzles because
by this point the beleaguered audi-
ence has realized how insipid, dis-
jointed, and contrived the charac-
ters actually are. Even Roberts,
sweetheart of the screen, can't
salvage her second role as a male-
dominated whore-turned-sophisti-
cate - oops! - battered-wife-
turned-girl-next-door.
Pretty Woman, with its clearly
anti-progressive; Pygmalion story,
was at the very least well-made
and enjoyable. Committed social
activists among us might ask
which is worse: a feel-good movie
with deplorable values, or a movie
with the same values that repels
its audience? As Pretty Woman
held its top-grossing position for
months, I felt confirmed in my

preference for bad movies that
preach female ineptitude. At least
nobody likes them.
Perhaps Sleeping with the En-
emy's most glaring contradiction
lies in its relationships, especially
that between Laura and her abu-
sive husband, Martin (Patrick
Bergin). Their psychology is so in-
complete that it becomes incon-
ceivable that Laura would've mar-
ried him in the first place.
Although she hints at pre-
honeymoon bliss, his character is
so resolutely foul that one wonders
whether he's ever been capable of
a good side. Even later, when he
stalks Laura/Sara and employs his
charm to slime his way into her
community, his psychopathic syco-
phancies are wholly unconvincing.
Yes, he's rich and dapper, but are
we to believe that money's enough
to recruit a human punching bag?
For all its congenial appeal,
even the relationship between Sara
and Ben (Kevin Anderson), the
college professor who befriends her
in her new life, reveals major nar-
rative flaws. There's absolutely no
development between the two, and
the only presumable motivation
behind his feelings for her is
beauty. He seems haunted by the
wounded-puppy look in her eyes,
but when was the last time a
stranger risked life and limb to
save you on a bad day?
The film is beautifully orna-
mented and shot, but it's all too
obvious that the lighting, sets, and
camera work are meant to convey
themes that remain weak in the
narrative.
The beginning of the film is
dominated by the slick and glassy
blackness of Laura and Martin's

post-neo-retro beach house,
whereas Sara's life glows yellow
under the eternally patriotic Iowan
sun. Laura arranges white freesia
and orchids for Martin; for herself,
she buys pink and purple begonias.
Do you get it? The staging is so
unsubtle that it implies audience
stupidity as well as lack of real
content. Character development is
replaced by fetishistic gestures
meant to typify personalities.
The suspense follows suit with
the production values, as director
Joseph Ruben (The Stepfather,
True Believer) draws on every pot-
shot to turn the audience's- stom-
ach, rest assured that every action
in the first half of the movie will
have significance in the last half.
Sleeping with the Enemy is riddled
with false alarms and cheap vis-
ceral thrills, usually the result of
sheer character stupidity - Laura
never turns on the lights, and she
leaves the gun within reach of the
seemingly-dead enemy.
For all its potential importance
as a film addressing marital abuse,
Sleeping with the Enemy never ex-
plains the problems inherent in a
legal system that can't protect a
battered wife. Laura hints at her
investigation into legal recourse
against Martin, but obviously finds
faking her own death in order to
escape preferable. When she does
escape, behold: she needs a man
to find her a job, give her emo-
tional support, and save her from
her husband.
And even though the narrative
could possibly be construed as
feminist in its depiction of a
"female" problem, the camera be-
lies every last chance for social
salvation. We see Julia Roberts

his is chaos, friends,
chaos," Stephen, played by'
Aaron Williams, yelled at the
other characters as they threw
each other out of the line. If the
word "line" usually evokes a
sense of direction or alignment,
then the action in the play Line;
does just the opposite. The five
characters were all standing in,
a line, waiting and struggling,
for nothing else but to be at the
front, to be "number one." Ev-,
erything from sex to physical
force to mental antagonism to.
simply stepping ahead of the
next person were tactics used,
by characters to advance their
status.
The outstanding job by the:
actors in conveying the hostility,
and hysteria of the play kept the
energy high. Judd Winick
brought a natural feeling to his,
character, Dolan. He was re
laxed and comfortable on stage
and made his character like-
able, even when he did vicious
things like pushing Stephen out.
of the line.
Williams' Stephen was the,
most dangerous character on
stage. He portrayed someone.,
that was young, full of energy,
eager for control and usually
first. He effectively used his.
body movements, his distance,
from Eric Vesbit's Flemming
when trying to psyche him out,
and his tone of voice to manipu-
late and control the others.
Eventually the characters de-
stroyed the line by creating an
anarchic environment, pushing'
Stephen out of the line and
chanting "Out of line, out of
luck!" Stephen ran around the"
audience and started yelling at
the other characters. Although
moving the characters off of the
stage and putting them into the
audience's space is an overused
gimmick, it was effective in
Line in expressing the disorder
of the moment, feeling like an
invasion on the audience.
Jenie Dahlmann, as Molly,,
had the most diverse role in the
play. She was extremely be-'
lievable in her transitions from
a proper wife to a sensual whore
and an "unsatisfied" bitch. Ves-'
bit's Flemming used a loud
voice and fast movements to
convey the character's stupidity.
Although his character was a
follower and not too bright,
Vesbit made him likeable.

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Julia Roberts (from the photo, reprising her role as a "call girl" ) stars in
the perfect Valentine's day movie as a woman who must fake her own
death in order to ditch a really annoying guy.

through a voyeuristic lens. She's
the stalked woman. We see her
through Martin's gaze from afar,
through Ben's gentler eyes from
next door, and through the window,
when Martin finally invades her
small-town sanctuary. We never

see a woman on her own, as if the
only way to view beauty were
through a man's gaze. Score two
for objectification.
SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY is
playing at Showcase.

S,.
Si I

A

plyig t+hocae

Arturo Vivante, lui viva una vita con molto varieta

by Valerie Shuman

"6Medicine seemed more hu-
mane than the humanities, at least
in college," says author/teacher
Arturo Vivante. After eight years
as a general physician, Vivante
says that he discovered he "was

more interested in drawing
sketches of people and places than
in the condition of my patients,
and it was hardly fair to them."
Medicine still serves as an
inspiration to him, however, as
does his interesting past, which
includes life in Italy during World

WHAT A WEEK

War II and years spent studying
and teaching in England, Canada,
and, most recently, the United
States. From these experiences,
Vivante has written his largely
autobiographical novels and short
stories, which have won him
various awards, including Fulbright
and NEA grants.
Vivante's stories come straight
from his experiences, and this
makes them read like snapshots,
colored and given depth by his
emotions. He often takes decep-
tively simple plots - such as a
blind man climbing a tower to
"see" the sun and shadow, or a
middle-aged father making a mad
dash to see a waterfall - and
makes them into unforgettable
scenes. Vivante captures personali-
ties like butterflies, describing his
mother in his short story, "The
Conversationalist," as "unself-con-
scious, unrhetorical, striving for no
effect, heart and soul in what she
said, her identity completely taken

up by the persons, the places, the
situation she was telling us
about...."
When Vivante writes, he says
he tries to be "both conventional
and unpredictable at the same

Vivante captures personalities like
butterflies, describing his mother in his short
story, 'The Conversationalist,' as 'unself-con-
scious, unrhetorical, striving for no effect,
heart and soul in what she said, her identity
completely taken up by the persons, the
places, the situation she was telling us
about....'

themes, for him, are "love, death,
and freedom." But whether his
themes are the universal or the
more prosaic, Vivante says that he
attempts to "portray things as con-
vincing and real without being

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Likepim was m eant to be"pi---:---
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time." While he has written a
handbook on the mechanics of
writing, Writing Fiction, Vivante
says that he tells his students to
"try and seek the universal in ev-
eryday life." Vivante says these

sensational," and indeed, he suc-
ceeds.
ARTURO VIVANTE reads today at
the Rackham Ampitheater at 5 p.m.
There is no admission charge.

t.

Summer, Invest Some
iy Time In Your Future.
Abbott Laboratories
ence/Engineering Internship.

Sc

Abbott Laboratories, a Fortune 100 corporation, is a worldwide
leader in quality healthcare products and services. Currently we have
opportunities for you to get a head start on your career, while gaining
some valuable experience. Right now, we're offering summer intern-
ships for qualified Juniors, Graduating Seniors and Grad Students. You
can find out more at our presentation:
Abbon Summer

I

1

Williams
Arnall (Alan Landau),
Molly's husband, was a wimpy,
squeam-ish character. Landau
tried to convey Arnall's charac-
ter by being unenthusiastic in
his speech and gestures, but this
made him seem less realistic
than the other characters. Al-
though Landau did a good job in
showing us a weak person, he
lacked energy.,
The play's lighting was one
of its best qualities. The spot-
light that turned on and off
Flemming as he appeared to be
falling asleep on the floor at the
beginning conveyed time pass-
ing; he seemed to be waiting for
hours. The lighting was also
used as a symbol for power
throughout the play, brightest on
the person who was at the front
of the line. Another use of light-
ing was in the sex scenes with
Molly. The colorful lighting
formed a box around the danc-
ing couples (a metaphor for
sex) and isolated them from the
rest of the characters.
Trhe I n ni.,, i-A it h Ct.f1~ rs..nhse

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NTursday, February 14
7:00 pm
Willard H. Dow Laboratory
Room 1706

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We have opportunities available for individuals interested in the
following Science Fields:
S logy - Biochemistry - Molecular Biolog
Ind vi iineering will find opportunities in
ne of the following areas:
- Biomedical Engineering - Electrical Engineering
Mechanical Engineering - Computer Engineering

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