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Strapless Reviews

From the writer of PLENTY and writer-director of WETHERBY, British playwright David Hare, comes yet another decidedly odd but utterly irresistible study of isolation, loneliness, and strength. Blair Brown stars as a cancer specialist and expatriate American, Dr. Lillian Hempel, who meets shady, romantic Raymond Forbes (Bruno Ganz) while touring the continent. Enchanted but cautious, Lillian lunches with him but balks at a later rendezvous at his hotel and returns to England without giving him her address. Soon Raymond abruptly shows up on Lillian's doorstep, having obtained her home address from a hotel where she stayed, and resumes his courtship. When he proposes marriage, Lillian again balks, though she agrees to move in with him. Raymond's idea of playing house turns out to be an extended stay at a casino-hotel that ends on an ominous note when he bounces a check in attempting to cover his betting losses. Lillian makes good on Raymond's bad check and returns home. In the face of the mounting chaos in her life, Lillian suffers a minor breakdown but impulsively agrees to marry Raymond, who carries over his romantic excesses into their domestic life. STRAPLESS is an ode to both independence and interdependence. While Lillian's repression and forced isolation lead her to be seduced by Raymond's romanticism, her independent strength allows her to take the experience on its own terms and use it to enrich her own life. That strength leads her to break out of her shell and become a participant in the lives of those around her. At the same time, her sister learns from Lillian the need to pull back and tend to her inner needs to make a proper environment for her new baby. In spite of its dreamy allegorical tone and terse political overtones, STRAPLESS is anything but dour and preachy. Instead it is alive with feeling for its characters and their world. Though beautifully controlled under Hare's direction, STRAPLESS is full of poignant, human moments of precise observation, gentle comedy, and penetrating drama. It's also full of exquisite performances, especially from Brown, Ganz, and Fonda, who make the most of the rich roles Hare has written for them.