'Mortal Thoughts' is engaging but needs more laughs

On movies

April 19, 1991|By Lou Cedrone

''Mortal Thoughts'' is an intriguing film noir salute that could use just a little more humor. As is, the film plays like an extension of a half-hour Alfred Hitchcock show.

''Mortal Thoughts'' has a point, but the leading characters behave so foolishly that it is difficult to go along with them. It all adds up when the film ends, by there is too much puzzlement before that.

You're not likely to be bored. The movie engages, but it might have been so much better with a few more laughs, in the right places. With the proper placement of some additional laughs, ''Mortal Thoughts'' could have been a nice send-up of the art form. We'd also be much more willing to accept the premise.

Demi Moore, Glenne Headly and Bruce Willis star. Moore and Headly are good friends, co-owners of a beauty salon in Bayonne, N.J. When the film begins, Cynthia (Moore) is at the police station where she is being questioned about the murder of her good friend's husband, a brutish boozer-user.

According to Cynthia, Joyce (Headly) accidentally killed her own husband after he became abusive to her. The police captain (Harvey Keitel) presses ahead, persistent in his pursuit of the truth.

Because Cynthia is doing the talking, giving her version of the incident, we wonder, early on, if this will be another variation on the ''Rashomon'' theme. How far is Cynthia willing to go to protect her good friend and business partner?

Alan Rudolph directed, but this is not the kind of film we have come to expect from him. He replaced the original director one week after the movie was in production. Technologically, the film is fluid, unlike Rudolph's usual production, whose trademark is the fey, off-center film (''Love At Large,'' ''Choose Me'').

The leading ladies do well. No one cries more appealingly than Moore, who, as she tries to protect her friend, also wants to protect her husband and two children.

Willis is just as good, maybe even better than the women. The character he plays is the sort you wouldn't mind seeing dead, but Willis makes us feel just a little sorry for the guy. He also makes us think that with guidance, he might have been able to lick all this.

''Mortal Thoughts'' is not a bad film. However, it could have been so much better with a deftly placed laugh or two.

''Mortal Thoughts''

** A woman, witness to the murder of her best friend's husband, tells her story to the police.

CAST: Demi Moore, Glenne Headly, Bruce Willis, Harvey Keitel, Billie Neal

DIRECTOR: Alan Rudolph

RATING: R (violence, sex, language)

RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes

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