Once upon a happier, more escapist time, the damsel-in-distress thriller afforded glitzy film stars the opportunity to scream photogenically at the top of their lungs. Unfortunately, the creative personnel behind A WOMAN UNDONE are more interested in a brand of realism which the "imperiled
lady" subgenre is too shallow to support.
A distraught woman, Teri Hansen (Mary McDonnell), is found cowering in a dry gulch after her husband, Allen (Randy Quaid), has been burned to death in the family car. As sketchy details crystallize, Teri is arrested for murder and defended by attorney Ross Bishop (Sam Elliott). Flashbacks
highlight the Hansens' incompatible marriage, particularly Allen's paranoid jealousy and Teri's attempt to soothe her sexual dissatisfaction with an affair Allen refuses to forgive. History repeats itself in Teri's steamy relationship with pleasure-seeking Jim (Benjamin Bratt), and marital
tensions are exacerbated when Teri becomes pregnant but tells Allen that she wants an abortion.
In the present, Bishop can't explain the six bullets the coroner found in Allen's charred corpse. A final memory of past arguments prompts Teri's desert journey, in which she foolishly baits her spouse by revealing that she's already terminated her pregnancy. She jumps out of the car. When Allen
follows on foot, a frightened Teri hits him with a rock and grabs his gun. Pursuing her by car, Allen crashes and gets trapped inside the flaming wreckage. In what amounts to euthanasia, Teri shoots her burning hubby with his gun. Teri is found guilty in a verdict that hinges on damaging facts
rather than an interpretation of Teri's humane motives. Gulping and accepting her prison stretch, Teri bravely carries on in the knowledge that her attorney will be waiting for her.
A WOMAN UNDONE is like a reduction of Bergman's SCENES FROM A MARRIAGE (1973) with all the angst moved outdoors to a series of desert showdowns. As flashbacks reveal the Hansens' unsuitability for each other, one sympathizes with Teri up to the point when her appalling judgment turns the audience
against her. Romping in a heated pool with a hunk is understandable, if immoral, but failing to gauge her unbalanced husband's sore points is stupid. Blabbing about an aborted child to a macho sexist during a trek into the wilderness ranks as a classic of suicidally bad timing. At the climax one
feels nothing for Teri but the urge to say, "I could have told you this would happen."
A botch as a fast-paced psychological thriller and a flop as a marital problem flashback drama, A WOMAN UNDONE wastes some fine acting, particularly from Quaid as a family man enamored of weapons and unable to comprehend the inner needs of a wife whom he treats like a possession. (Extremeprofanity, graphic violence, adult situations, sexual situations.)
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- Released: 1995
- Rating: R
- Review: Once upon a happier, more escapist time, the damsel-in-distress thriller afforded glitzy film stars the opportunity to scream photogenically at the top of their lungs. Unfortunately, the creative personnel behind A WOMAN UNDONE are more interested in a bra… (more)