With its timely theme of domestic violence, SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY is both contemporary fairy tale and Hollywood hokum of the highest grade, its sturdy prototype the "woman's picture" of the 40s and 50s. A perfect young beauty named Laura (Julia Roberts) lives with her perfect businessman
husband Martin Burney (Patrick Bergin) in their perfect high-tech home by the sea. Laura dutifully conforms to her husband's lifestyle, which is excruciatingly controlled and formal. He also beats her up periodically--a tasteful sadist. The high-tech home begins to resemble a prison tower and the
handsome businessman an evil wizard. Laura, with her trailing red tresses, devises a way to escape her tormentor.
Laura seizes her opportunity during a stormy yacht excursion where she jumps into the ocean and fakes her own death. She settles in a baseball and apple pie North Carolina town and begins a new life as Sara Waters. She acquires a suitor (Kevin Anderson), a bearded natural-man drama instructor at
the local college. They fall blandly in love. Meanwhile Martin has put two and two together and begins to track his wife down with a bitter vengeance.
SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY teeters constantly on the verge of silliness but director Joseph Ruben keeps the cornball melodrama scaled down to a pleasant lull. Nothing is overplayed and there's an admirable restraint in the story telling. The scenes speed along at a confident pace. Everything is
designed to show off the movie's best asset: Julia Roberts.
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