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Cynthia comes forward to talk to detective John about the murder of her best friend's husband. The story is told as a series of flashbacks... James was a bullying, verbally and physically abusive husband. His wife Joyce has, on a number of occasions, expressed her intention to kill him. One night when all three are at the fair, Joyce has a row with James, and Cynthia helps James back to the van. But later he was found dead... Written by
Sami Al-Taher <firstname.lastname@example.org>
First of all I have no idea why this was named "Mortal Thoughts." More appropriate would be, "Fatal Lies" or "An Inadvertent Confession," or maybe "Desperate Friends." Be that as it may, this is a superior thriller mainly because the story is compelling and the acting is first rate. Demi Moore who plays Cynthia is just outstanding. She commands the screen with her beautiful and expressive features and her great natural skill. If you don't like her, I guarantee you will not like this movie because she dominates the film. She is as vivid and unforgettable as an Al Pacino or a Betty Davis.
As an aside on the career of Demi Moore, I want to say that it's a shame for her that her off-screen personality is not well liked, which in large part accounts for the fact that she is one of the most underrated, although one of the most often seen and hardest-working stars of the last fifteen years or so. This movie is an example of how she is ignored. The plain fact is her performance here is better than many who have won Oscars, and she wasn't even nominated. Another problem for her is that this movie (and others she has made) are not the sort of films that the Academy pays much attention to. Mortal Thoughts (which she co-produced, by the way) is too low-budget, too "common" one might say, for any part in it to be taken seriously in an artistic sense. Too bad.
Glenne Headly (Joyce) is also outstanding while Bruce Willis is excellent as Joyce's drug-addled, boozing, wife-beating loser of a husband. The dialogue is right on, realistically depicting the lives of New Jersey beauty shop people while the plot told in ersatz flashbacks unfolds nicely with a fine tension.
The story is that of two friends, Joyce and Cynthia who find they have to cover up a killing (NOT a murder, but at worst a manslaughter, or better yet, a case of self-defense), but fall apart as the investigation closes in on them. In a sense they are both like Lady Macbeth with blood on their hands and no effective way to wash it off. They are both appropriately naive as young working-class women, and both act foolishly, as many of us might in their predicament.
Here's a nice bit of ironic dialogue. Joyce is questioning her ability to convince people about what happened. She tells Cynthia that she isn't a very good liar. But Cynthia reassures her: "Joyce, you're a terrific liar. You just lost confidence in yourself." This is all to the good as far as film-making goes. It is the ending that is the problem.
One might ask, what happened to the ending? Maybe I need to watch this again to be sure I didn't miss anything. But better yet, YOU watch it and you be the judge. What I think happened is director Alan Rudolph truncated it. Either that or he decided to try something artistic, which I don't recommend in a commercial thriller flick. Maybe they just ran out of money and had to wrap it up. At any rate, we are left wondering what is going to happen and who actually did what to whom. Presumably, the last flashback from Cynthia tells us how Bruce Willis's character met his end, but that doesn't solve the problem of how or why (somebody else) was shot full of holes. Maybe the producers thought they would wrap it all up in a sequel. Actually, there's enough there for one, easily.
I would also like to complain about a movie that acts out a false story told by one of the characters as though the story were true. That can be done, but it must be done in such a way that there is some kind of hint or "coloring" of the story that allows the viewer to suspect that something is amiss. True, Det. John Woods (Harvey Keitel) makes some compelling arguments along the way to suggest that Cynthia is not telling the truth, but we are mislead by the actions that our eyes see and the sounds that our ears hear. In movies, since anything can be contrived, it is the usual rule to have the camera show the truth while letting the characters do the lying.
What might have saved this (and what I was expecting all the way through) is Joyce's side of the story acted out on screen so that we could compare the stories and make our choice about who was telling the truth.
Bottom line: better than one might expect with a realistic edge clearly a notch or two above the usual thriller fare.
(Note: Over 500 of my movie reviews are now available in my book "Cut to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote!" Get it at Amazon!)
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