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Review: Sleeping With the Enemy

Released in 1991, Sleeping With The Enemy was Julia Robert’s first movie after the phenomenal success of Pretty Woman. Also starring Patrick Bergen and Kevin Anderson, it is the story of an abused woman’s escape from the cruelty of her twisted husband. Directed by Joseph Ruben, it took over $100 million in the United States and $70 million worldwide. This article is a review of the film Sleeping With the Enemy.

Story synopsis

Sleeping With The Enemy is the story of a woman’s attempt to escape the clutches of her abusive husband. Martin and Laura Burney (Patrick Bergen and Julia Roberts) are a beautiful and successful couple who seem to have it all. However, behind closed doors Martin is a sadistic psychopath whose wife is merely a pretty possession that can do nothing right. In a desperate attempt to break away from her husband’s cruelty, Laura fakes her own death and re-emerges in Cedar Falls, Iowa as Sara Waters. She embraces her new life and embarks on a tentative romance with her neighbour, college drama teacher Ben Woodward (Kevin Anderson). However, her happiness is short-lived as her husband discovers the truth and he’s madder than ever.

The verdict

The film starts promisingly enough. Laura’s claustrophobic Cape Cod life with her controlling husband leaves one tense and jumpy. It is an effective portrayal of an abused woman trying to keep everything perfect to appease her tyrant husband. It all starts to unravel when Robert’s character reinvents himself in a syrupy sweet small town. Her romance with the hamster-cheeked Ben is a quite predictable and in the end, it all feels a bit like an afternoon realistic movie of the week. In an attempt to recreate the famous shopping scene in Pretty Woman, there is a painful and self-conscious musical montage with Sara trying on different hats and costumes to the strains of Van Morrison’s Brown Eyed Girl. Bergin is menacing as the cruel husband with an obsessive compulsion to straighten towels and rearrange food cans. It would have been easy to let him slide into a pantomime villain though his anally-retentive Martin is truly terrifying. By contrast, Kevin Anderson’s Ben is bland and boring, practically fading into the background. However, this is undoubtedly Julia Roberts’ Sleeping With The Enemy, her star power as dazzling as her smile. She is eminently watchable and plays the fragile Laura/Sara very well. If you have nothing better to do on a rainy afternoon, it is worth checking out Sleeping With The Enemy. Movie stars like Julia Roberts have a sparkling knack of turning a mediocre film into something more interesting.

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