Based on the play by Alan Ayckbourn, whose brand of knockabout farce works better onstage than onscreen, this film quickly bogs down despite the best efforts of a spirited cast. After hearing cries for help, milquetoast Henry Bell (Sam Neil) postpones his own suicide to aid another potential bridge jumper, Karen Knightly (Helena Bonham Carter). Karen is in despair because her married lover, Antony Staxton Billing (Martin Clunes), had the audacity to return to his wife Imogen (Kristine Scott Thomas). Henry reveals that not was he dumped by his wife, but that his boss replaced him with a back-stabber named Bruce Tick (Steve Coogan). Inspired by Alfred Hitchcock's STRANGERS ON A TRAIN, Karen proposes that they d-trade murders and, assuming Henry has accepted her offer, snags a position as Bruce's secretary by posing as a frumpy drudge who couldn't possibly threaten Bruce's jealous spouse. Henry decides to check out the conniving Imogen, but instead falls for the noblewoman, who reciprocates his tender feelings. Meanwhile, Karen gains Bruce's confidence, discovers that he has asthma and slyly hints to Bruce's wife that he's a rogue. Convinced that Karen is nutty as a fruitcake, Henry realizes that womanizing Antony didn't throw her over for his wife, but for another mistress. Henry tries to renege on the revenge deal, but Karen refuses to believe she was been spurned for Antony's latest side dish and expects Henry to abandon Imogen as payback for Karen's punishment of Bruce. Stuck in a bind, Henry must figure out how to stop Karen without revealing his own complicity in her murderous scheme. Though sporadically jolly, this comedy lacks the firm directorial hand it needed to keep its highly theatrical wheels spinning. Bonham Carter's performance is madcap tour de force, though, and the other players offer some amusing moments.
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 1998
- Rating: PG-13
- Review: Based on the play by Alan Ayckbourn, whose brand of knockabout farce works better onstage than onscreen, this film quickly bogs down despite the best efforts of a spirited cast. After hearing cries for help, milquetoast Henry Bell (Sam Neil) postpones his… (more)