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movie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Hush

Starring: Jessica Lange, Gwyneth Paltrow
Director: Jonathan Darby
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 95 Minutes
Release Date: March 1998
Genres: Drama, Suspense, Thriller

*Also starring: Johnathon Schaech, Hal Holbrook, Nina Foch, Debi Mazar, Richard Lineback

Review by Steve Rhodes
1½ stars out of 4

HUSH, the latest in the tradition of the mad mother movies, feels like a hundred other films you've seen before. Only the delightful acting by Gwyneth Paltrow, as the daughter-in-law, breathes any life into it. Jessica Lange, as mother-in-law Martha Baring, plays the same role of the fidgety woman that she's played so often. The twist is that this time her restlessness is the hint that her sweetness isn't genuine.

Opening with the hazy close-up of a child's toy merry-go-round as it plays "Hush little baby, don't you cry," the movie immediately telegraphs where it is going. With images of the creepy old Bette Davis movie HUSH... HUSH, SWEET CHARLOTTE firmly planted in their minds, the audience meets young lovers Helen (Paltrow) and Jackson Baring, played as unbelievably naive by an unemotional Johnathon Schaech. Helen has all of the intelligence that Jackson lacks, and Paltrow acts rings around Schaech.

Helen is the first woman Jackson has ever brought home to visit his mother -- one in a long series of clues that makes the film so obvious that every "twist" becomes completely predictable. When Helen sees the Mount Vernon-sized mansion and massive grounds of the family estate, Jackson attempts to argue its commonness. "It's a farm," he tells her nonchalantly. "There's a mortgage. It's no big deal."

His constantly smiling and utterly agreeable mother welcomes them with open arms. Even when she walks in on them starting to have sexual intercourse in the hall -- not something most young adults would do in such a situation -- she smiles and walks away, trying not to disturb them.

As is patently obvious, all is not right at the family farm. Soon Helen becomes mysteriously pregnant, so she and Jackson decide to marry. (The pregnancy may be a mystery to Jackson and Helen, but not to the audience.) After they decide to marry, events then encourage them to move in with Martha. Martha quickly poisons their relationship with Helen seeing what is happening but Jackson remaining as blind as the proverbial bat to every obvious, sinister turn of events.

The script by Michael Cristofer and the director, Jonathan Darby, serves up many incredulities. One of the show's harder to believe claims is that Martha keeps her huge house immaculate without the aid of servants. That she would have trouble keeping help is plausible, but her doing all of the housework isn't. Helen falls asleep without make-up after having her baby but wakes up with fresh lipstick and makeup. Finally watch how Helen's very prominent pregnancy waxes and wanes like the moon, with one scene in particular showing her losing a half dozen inches off her waist and regaining them in the next.

The show does have its moments. The romance between the two young lovers, she being witty and intelligent, and he being a handsome airhead, works beautifully. A nice little romantic comedy could have easily been fashioned from the show's promising beginning.

The show's last act is so ludicrous that members in my audience were laughing out loud at it and engaging in conversation about how overdrawn and ridiculous it was. Even with all of story's problems, the final confrontation scene, in which the people being attacked attack back, is great fun.

HUSH runs 1:35. It is rated PG-13 for some violence, sensuality and brief strong language and would be fine for teenagers.

Copyright 1998 Steve Rhodes

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