by Dianne Lawrence
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Derailed, directed by the Swedish Mikael Håfström is the pedestrian tale of a decent guy grabbing the wrong temptation and the endless smacks upside the head fate deals him in return.
We first encounter Lucinda (Jennifer Aniston) on the commuter train where her shapely gams draw the attention of several of the commuting men. When our hapless hero Charles Schine (played by Clive Owen who works hard to keep this train on the track) discovers he hasn’t got the cash to pay for his ticket, he wins the moment and her attention as she bails him out.
Things haven’t been going well for Charles. He’s lost a big ad account and as his seriously diabetic daughter Amy (played with effective teenage sweetness by Addison Timlin) points out, he hasn’t been kissing mom goodbye lately. Perhaps he’s ready for a lovely distracting affair. So he grabs Lucinda’s bate like a starving fish and before you can say “trouble anyone?” they are lying to their spouses and taking the elevator to lie in a seedy hotel bed. There they begin the long descent to the hell that awaits all unfaithful spouses, unless of course they are famous gorgeous movie stars.
Just as the camera zeros in on Lucinda’s lovely chest, the super duper bad guy Phillipe (played with reptilian joi de vivre by Vincent Cassel) arrives and does super duper nasty things to the two of them. Phillipe continues to haunt them destroying Charles’s bank account and his ability to protect his would be lover and his family. Then when we think we can’t endure one more image of Clive Owen getting his lights punched out…he finally catches on, gets tough and takes care of business. You know, the usual routine.
Okay girlfriend, now let’s get to what you really want to know about.
First off, I’m in the Jennifer camp. Angelina didn’t need someone else’s husband on top of all the beauty, wealth, talent and fabulous career. So I went to this movie ready to cheer Jennifer on. She seems like such a nice, hard working decent gal.
As it turns out that’s a bit of a problem.
It’s in that first meeting between Lucinda and Charles that we realize the film might be in trouble. Her reaction to him is curiously devoid of any sex even though she is clearly targeting him. No spark, twinkle, seductive look, inviting smolder. Just a tight friendly smile and guarded gaze. It remains that way pretty much throughout the film. An actor’s choice? Perhaps. But it didn’t work. This is where the “nice” gal aspect of Jennifer’s persona becomes an obstacle. Lucinda provides her with an opportunity to go for sexy bad but apparently it’s not really her thing. She has the persona of the prettiest girl in high school who acts kindly towards the kids who aren’t cool. You just don’t want to see that person splashed naked on the cover of a magazine when she goes off to college. Even if they are trying to pass themselves off as innocent, sexy bad girls hint at the potential for ecstatic mayhem, a place decent, funny, nice girls don’t visit. If Jennifer has been there she needs to share it with us. If not she needs to try it. We’ll see it in her eyes when she has.
Dianne Lawrence is film critic and artist living in Los Angeles.
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