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Sir Hugo (Sir Alan Bates) is more interested in reconstructing dinosaur bones than in paying attention to his wife, Lady Harriet (Theresa Russell). He's not thrilled when daughter Cleo (Lena Headey) brings home her betrothed, Sidney (Steven Mackintosh), who aspires to be a poet. The new butler, Fledge (Sting), provides Lady Harriet with the attention she's been missing, and then seduces Sidney. Did he have a role in Sidney's disappearance as well?Written by
Dennis Lewis <email@example.com>
It's very difficult to dramatize novels hinging on an unreliable narrator without losing their essence. David Cronenburg did a brilliant job with Patrick McGrath's "Spider," in part by turning the narrator's garrulous on-page viewpoint almost entirely visual. But this adaptation of another excellent McGrath novel (my favorite) doesn't work remotely as well.
Where the book is a fiendishly misleading quasi-Gothic that turns out to be quite something else, the movie plays like a routine naughty costume intrigue, part "romp," part Agatha Christie. Despite the very interesting cast no one is particularly good (and Theresa Russell gives one of her really bad performances, which unfortunately by now outnumber her few very good ones). The story's original macabre psychological intricacy is lost in favor of something much more broad, and the book's key revelation simply gets lost in the uninspired shuffle.
It's watchable enough if you're not expecting much, and should you care, on a couple occasions Russell and Sting bare nearly all. But you're much better off reading McGrath's slim, sardonic, nasty little novel, which is both a subtle parody of Gothic literature and a great piece of perverse unreliable-narrator gamesmanship.
P.S. You know a movie has misfired when despite such notable actors it goes through so many desperate name changes: Debuting as "The Grotesque" (its source name), barely released to theaters as ""Gentlemen Don't Eat Poets," then to video as "Grave Indiscretions."
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