Directed by Nick Castle
Written by Chris Matheson, Kerry Ehrin and Craig Munson
I always loved this film, which stars Ellen DeGeneres and Bill Pullman, as Martha Alston and Whitman Crawford. Martha is lonely single woman who has been unlucky in love, and is becoming increasingly frustrated with her lot in life, especially as friends and family proceed to pressure her to find a nice man to settle down with. One day by chance she happens to meet Whitman, a seemingly perfect man. The two of them immediately fall into bed together and begin a relationship. Martha takes Whitman to meet her family, and he charms everyone.
But then just as quickly, Whitman shows his dark side, when he tricks Martha into helping him rob a liquor store, as a “joke”. At first Martha tries to give him the benefit of the doubt that he’s just a little “quirky” but still a good guy, but eventually she finally breaks up with him. And that’s when Whitman begins stalking and harassing her. At first only she can see it, as he still puts on a act around her family (who think she’s crazy for breaking up with him), but Whitman’s erratic behavior progresses to the point where he kidnaps Martha and takes her to Mexico to force her to marry him. And that’s when things get deadly. . .
Reading all of that I know it sounds like a scary Lifetime Original Movie, but it’s all played for laughs and it’s very funny. Ellen, who had that point had been starring in a sitcom for a few years, showed herself to have great comedic timing. Both from her sitcom and stand-up comedy she had been compared to Jerry Seinfeld, and this role fit that mode, as she’s playing the “Straight Man”, no pun intended, to Bill Pullman’s wackiness, trying to keep herself together as her world crashes down around her. Pullman likewise shows great skill in the way he effortlessly switches from normal to maniac at the drop of a hat.
Other standouts in this film include Joan Cusack, as Whitman’s crazy ex-girlfriend Inga, and Brad William Henke as Inga’s henchman, Bob. When Inga first approaches Martha and tries to scare her off, it was before Martha had seen Whitman’s dark side, so Martha dismisses her. but then even after Martha breaks up with Whitman, Inga continues to hound Martha because Inga refuses to believe that anyone would willingly dump Whitman and assumes that Martha is lying. Cusack’s performance could be seen as being played a little over-the-top, but I think it works in this context. There’s also Joan Plowright as Whitman’s mother, who appears to be a little too close to her son, Dean Stockwell, as a Private Investigator that Martha hires to look into Whitman’s background, John Livingston as Martha’s coworker, Walter, who is interested in Martha himself but she overlooks him, and Ellen Cleghorne as another coworker, Jane, who inadvertently gives Martha the wrong advice about giving Whitman the benefit of the doubt.
While this didn’t become the star-making turn for Ellen that this was surely hoped to be, it’s an entertaining ride from start to finish, and a creative bright spot in her resume. I’d grade it an: