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Director Martin Davidson has to be congratulated for being one of the few who has made Virginia Madsen look bad, and for presenting a story supposedly centred on a true life woman, with frustrating ambiguity and a general lack of skill.
Madsen plays Carolyn Warmus, a Greenville Springs New York school teacher who is accused of the murder of Betty Jean Solomon (Lenore Kasdorf), the wife of her lover and fellow school teacher Paul Solomon (Chris Sarandon).
The teleplay makes Paul the prime suspect until the narrative skips to Carolyn's stalking of him once he stops seeing her after Betty Jean is killed. Making Paul a womaniser is an interesting plot development, however writers Earl & Pamela Wallace and Davidson never add enough depth or characterisation to Carolyn to suggest that she is the murderer she goes on trial for being. Flashback memory is used clumsily in response to police interrogation of various people for the backstory, and the touches of Carolyn's relationship with her father in a pre-credit sequence and via his appearance at her 2nd trial are slight. This seeming unmotivated entrapment of Carolyn by the police is also highlighted by their insensitive ridicule of her during a search of her home. Paul is given a speech to Carolyn's defence attorney that no judge would ordinarily allow, and Betty Jean is shown to sleep whilst a war movie plays loudly on her television.
Matters aren't helped by Davidson's plodding direction, and cliched use of black & white, slow motion, tilted camera, lighting for flashbacks, and the overuse of saxophone to represent Carolyn's sexuality. Although he does use an interesting stylisation for Carolyn's hearing pleas and sentencing, otherwise Davidson paints her in the broadest possible strokes, where Madsen overplays being a femme fatale, and is particularly ridiculous in a montage of her being photographed. She only manages subtlety when looking at herself in the mirror on 2 occasions, where her sultriness is not forced, in a scene of anger and in some of her silent reactions at the trial. Davidson also strangely provides a lot of footage of Sarandon's bare and sweaty torso, though once works against an expectation, as the water splash from a pool where he sunbakes comes from a fat lady.
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