Michael (Matt McCoy) and Claire Bartel (Annabella Sciorra) take on mentally handicapped Solomon (Ernie Hudson) to build the fence. They have a girl and she's pregnant with their second. She is molested by her new doctor Victor Mott (John de Lancie). She reports him along with other women and he shoots himself before the trial. Mott's pregnant wife (Rebecca De Mornay) loses her family wealth and her baby. Mrs. Mott vows revenge on Claire and becomes her nanny as Peyton Flanders. Claire's friend Marlene (Julianne Moore) warns her as Mrs. Mott wage a secret campaign against Claire.This is probably more scary for parents and especially mothers. This is simply geared more towards that demographic. For others, it needs something more than this straight forward thriller. I think it would be more compelling to start the movie with De Mornay as a mysterious woman. Claire can uncover her history along with the audience. De Mornay is pretty good with a restrained intensity and volcanic outbursts. This is a bit too slow but there is just enough tension.
The potentially interesting theme of this story - a nanny integrates herself into a family to get revenge for the suicide of her husband - is wasted due to some flat direction and clichéd situations which threaten to sink the thing as a whole. Thankfully there are some good moments in this mess, but otherwise it's all a bit obvious and easy to foretell. In some ways it feels like a television movie, due to the fact that there's plenty of sugary sentimentalism, and it could have been a lot tougher.Ultimately, though, the film comes across as a bit of a disappointment due to the excellent reception it received when released in cinemas. I should think that good films were few and far between back in '92, and the public lapped up anything that was halfway decent, such as this. Rebecca De Mornay gives a very good performance as the psychopath from hell, nicely subtle too, well that is until the over the top finale where she gets to wield a spade and break legs. Annabella Sciorra just annoyed me though, coming across as a) an idiot and b) very weak indeed. And I was sick of her asthma attacks by the end of the film. Matt McCoy is okay as the husband, but is given little to do, and it's Ernie Hudson (GHOSTBUSTERS) who shines as a mentally-handicapped handyman, who couldn't hurt a fly, yet gets blamed for harbouring sexual thoughts about the young daughter. Thankfully he sticks around and comes through at the end. Julianne Moore makes the most of her appearance as a feisty old flame of the husband, while STAR TREK's John De Lancie is the creepy perverted doctor.While there are a few good suspenseful set pieces (the greenhouse scene being one of them), and lots of clever little mystery twists, unfortunately it all comes across as polished yet flawed, due to the family-orientated, over sentimental script. THE HAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE is good fun, but not the film that it might have been, or, indeed, that you might hope it to be.
This post is right up my alley! I am a sucker for a good time travel and romantic comedy, and agree, the vast majority of romcoms are terrible. Of course, the best one of all time, IMHO, is Groundhog Day. If only I could write a movie like that!!! (It\'s not exactly time travel, but it hits the same intellectual need.)Have you seen Happy Accidents with Marisa Tomei? Any self-respecting time travel/romance buff should see it!Also, 50 First DatesAnd - right up there with Groundhog Day - While You Were Sleeping with Sandra Bullock. Oh, and one that will make you sigh and reach for the toothbrush afterwards: Ever After with Drew Barrymore. It\'s so sweet and engaging, you totally forgive her for trying to do an... um... English?... accent.There is one (I forget the title) with Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour (time travel romance) that I don\'t like so much because it\'s sad, but it has the HOTTEST most romantic screen kiss ever. The problem with the new romantic movies is that they just don\'t do LONGING very well. Longing is what makes a romantic movie hot, not watching people shortcut the romance, jump in bed, then spend the rest of the movie in formulaic arguing for a tidy reconciliation to wrap up. That\'s why My Big Fat Greek Wedding is another good one, they handle humor and desire well.Oh, and Family Man with Nicholas Cage -- a new take on It\'s a Wonderful Life -- great for us moms. Stick with it past the first 20 minutes, it\'s not what you think from the first scene.Anyway, I think I\'ve seen all the good ones, but if you think along the same lines and see one I forgot, please clue me in, especially if it\'s time travel AND romance AND funny! Oh, I almost forgot. The Pink Panther with Steve Martin. HILARIOUS - I liked him better than the original Clouseau - and very sweet romance, too. The sequel is worth watching but not quite as funny as the first.
@anne - I didn't realize you don't like dark categorically - you probably should steer clear of Donnie Darko. You might still like Before Sunrise and the second movie, but only if you enjoy romantic stuff that's a little more cerebral and less Hollywoody. I'm afraid New Year's Eve (and Valentine's Day) were too easy for me, but I did find them fun to watch just once apiece.
@ Anita,I have not seen all of the ones on your list and really appreciate the new material. I have wondered about the Age of Innocence - does it have a happy ending? I somehow never really appreciated Sleepless in Seattle or You've Got Mail, though. I checked out Donnie Darko before I saw your note above but have not watched it yet. When you say it's dark, does that mean it has a sad ending? I'm not a tearjerker romance fan, I need a satisfying happy ending. I once saw a program that aired Sweet Charity (with Shirley Maclaine) with the original theater release ending (bittersweet) and then an alternate happy ending they shot but never aired. I wish they had worked a little harder at the happy ending, which could have worked if they had had refined it.Oh, one I almost forgot - have you seen Tortilla Soup? It's a remake of Eat Drink Man Woman only with food from Mexico (and a little sillier and sweeter). It is hands down the best food movie I can recall. I love cooking shows and never cook anything from them! Combining cooking and romantic comedy... I also recently saw Letters to Juliet -- also kind of a lightweight romance, but the performance by Vanessa Redgrave has so much depth it's like nothing I've seen in a theater for years. I didn't even realize it was her for a long time (I'm not familiar with her work, I just know she's famous), and I kept wondering who IS that?! I really appreciate this blog entry and the discussion -- I am so tired of wasting my time on bad bad romcom's to find the few worth watching!
@anne - Age of Innocence is closer to Atonement - there is no redemption for anyone - so I think that was probably not a good recommendation for your tastes. Sorry! It's hard to make good individualized recommendations without knowing the viewer in real life. Thanks for suggesting "The Other Guys." I'm often put off by Will Ferrell's brand of humor, too, but my husband really enjoys unwinding with his movies, so maybe that's one we can watch together.
@Anita,I don't know if it's a pain for you to continue a conversation in an old blog post, if so, let me know. I just wanted to follow through on some of the movies I watched because of your post.I watched Knocked Up and loved it, to my surprise. I had never watched Knocked Up because I figured it would be trite and predictable. Not so. It was actually one of those few movies where the transformations of the characters and their relationships felt real and believable, despite the quirkiness of the comedy. And real and believable in a satisfying and happy ending. It was funny and yet real life. My one beef with the movie is the relentless torrent of profanity. Profanity can be funny if used sparingly, but when movies overdo it is just boring and wearing. Recently, Bill Cosby came down on John Stewart about this -- overusing profanity is just lazy and it stops being funny real fast. One thing I really loved about Knocked Up - even though it sort of followed that jump-in-bed-fall-out-spend-rest-of-movie-in-conflict-then-make-up template, the reconciliations unfolded in the movie as the relationships did. One of my relatives is a Quaker and has talked about starting an award for portraying peacemaking in movies, and I actually thought this would be a good one, because it really showed how people work through their problems, how they grow, and yes, how they can change (because people do change) for the better. The movie didn't just start the resolution in the last 2 minutes.But I was really disappointed in Before Sunset. Is it just because I watched it out of sequence? If so, I'll give the other two a try (still waiting at the library). I find most romances that involve infidelity to be very uncomfortable and don't enjoy them. A romance is an escape; when infidelity is involved, the romantic lead just seems creepy to me. A movie like The Painted Veil, which is a redemption story, or like Castaway (not a romance, but the relationships at the end), use infidelity differently and are different than a movie where the romance is unfolding while the person is still involved with someone else. I didn't enjoy Sleepless in Seattle for that reason, even watched it twice because everyone else liked it so much.I don't like all of Jack Black's movies either, but have you seen Gulliver's Travels? Funny, enjoyable and sweet (though light and trite), romance. 2b1af7f3a8