I suppose the top story on "Malice" is
that it was a remake of a film that was made only three years earlier,
"The Operation," which featured Joe Penny and Lisa Hartman playing the
parts which went to Alec Baldwin and Nicole Kidman in the later version.
Now this might make sense in the case
of certain types of genre movie, but not in this case. It is a
surprise-twist noir mystery, the entire surprise of which is that the
doctor is in collusion with the woman who is suing him for a bazillion
dollars. Now if you saw the earlier movie, as I did, there is no
surprise at all. You simply think, "Oh, yeah, it's a remake of the
movie where the doctor allows himself to be sued and even hurts his own
case just so he can get half of a massive settlement".
"Malice" did add some additional
details and sub-plots, but for no apparent reason. For example, there is
an entire sub-plot about a campus rapist, which has almost nothing to do
with the main story, and which is summarily dismissed in the middle of
the film when a professor accidentally stumbles upon the rapist's lair.
Huh? So why was it in there? Just a complex bit of atmosphere? This
sub-plot did give us a chance to see a very young Gwyneth Paltrow in a
small part as the last victim. That might have been more exciting if she
weren't fully dressed, even after the rape!
And then there was the matter of the
Now we have this matter of plot
exposition. Halfway through the movie, the kindly husband (Bill Pullman)
has lost his scheming wife. Unaware of the doctor-patient conspiracy, he
thinks at first that she's just upset with him, until some new info
comes to light. He knew that she was pregnant when she had the botched
operation, and he accidentally finds out that he is sterile. (Giving us
Bill Pullman's sperm sample was the only reason for the rapist
Now that Pullman knows that, how to
advance the plot? Pullman has no idea where to turn, so he accuses
Kidman's lawyer (Peter Gallagher) of having gigantic eyebrows and
sleeping with Kidman. Gallagher pleads guilty to the eyebrow thing, but
it turns out he was only Kidman's lawyer. Period.
But a discussion of Kidman's mother's
estate leads Pullman to realize something is wrong. Kidman told her
husband that the lawyer was working on her mother's estate, but the
lawyer has no idea what this line of questioning is about, mainly
because the mother is still alive. So Pullman realizes that he must
track down mom. Turns out mom hates Kidman, so she essentially tells us
and Pullman the entire plot, but not before doing some really hammy "old
gypsy woman" acting. I guess someone forgot to tell Anne Bancroft that
she wasn't supposed to be playing an old gypsy, but for me you can't get
too much of old gypsy women who provide plot exposition, so I'm glad
they never told her.
The only thing I like better is
waterfront taverns full of salty old sea dogs who provide plot
exposition. These are always played by rough and tumble guys like
Cameron Mitchell and Sterling Hayden, and you can always count on these
scenes for plenty of eye patches and squeezebox music. But you don't
really need sailors unless the plot is actually about old gypsy women,
since the gypsies can't rat themselves out. (That's the code of honor
for colorful incidental characters.)
So Pullman, armed with ancient gypsy
secrets, figures out a counter-plot to bring Kidman to justice, and all
ends well. Kidman goes to the slammer, and Alec Baldwin moves to France
when Bush is elected, as he had promised.
I would explain to you how Kidman and
Baldwin met in the first place, but I didn't understand that whole
sub-plot. Apparently Kidman met Baldwin when she went to his abortion
clinic, which he operated under an assumed name. What? He was supposed
to have been the best surgeon in the history of Harvard Medical School.
That wasn't enough to keep him wealthy and busy? He also had to perform
abortions under an assumed name? I got lost on that whole deal.
But not as lost as I am about the
mechanics of how Baldwin came to be living in Pullman and Kidman's
house. OK, let's see if I've got this straight. You put out a "room for
rent" sign, and the guy who wants the room is the acknowledged best
surgeon in the history of the planet. Would you smell some kind of rat?
How many of the world's top 25 surgeons live in a single room in
somebody else's house and get drunk every night in public bars? To top
off this piece of illogic, the plot didn't even need Baldwin to be
living in the house. That point was not germane to the conspiracy. All
Baldwin needed was to befriend Pullman, not to rent a room from him.
And why would the top surgeon in the
world sell out his reputation for 5 million dollars? A billion, maybe,
but 5 million? That's not even a good year for someone at this alleged
level of talent.
So the best parts of the plot were
almost identical to "The Operation", and just about everything that they
changed from the earlier film was either illogical or sloppy. Good job,
Fortunately, the movie isn't as bad as
Some atmospheric set-ups and some fun
characterizations, especially campy soap-opera hyperemoting, make the
film enjoyable to watch despite the loopholes and cliches. Baldwin has a
role that requires him to act evil in order to maximize the value of the
suit against him. Because of the scam, the more he loses in the suit,
the more he gains. Therefore, he makes every effort to act as arrogant
and irresponsible as possible. On top of that, the character must be
demented to begin with, just to get involved in such a low-rent scheme
from his lofty and respected position. So Baldwin takes advantage of the
opportunity to deliver a deliciously nutty reading in the second half of