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By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
September 27, 1991


Damian Harris
Goldie Hawn;
John Heard;
Robin Bartlett;
Amy Wright;
Jan Rubes;
Kate Reid
Children under 13 should be accompanied by a parent

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The movie's called "Deceived," so you know this husband-and-wife thriller isn't about blissful matrimony. In fact, it isn't about much at all. Like the light beer, it's everything you wanted in a suspense movie -- but less. Deprived of essential ingredients, it's nothing but wet.

After six years of marriage, art restorer Goldie Hawn realizes husband John Heard isn't what he seems. Actually, at his best, he seems soulless and deceitful. His charms are studied rather than natural. But we're not supposed to notice that yet.

Heard's mysterious ways become apparent anyway. On a day Heard claims to have been in Boston, Hawn's friend swears she saw him in New York. Hawn finds further incriminating evidence in her husband's pockets. There's a call from a local department store. Seems the sexy negligee Heard bought her on that significant day was charged in New York.

With enough clues to make even a toddler suspicious, Hawn challenges her husband, but he talks his way out of it. Next thing Hawn knows, the police are telling her Heard's dead from a car accident. She soon finds out he's been using the name of a man who died 16 years earlier. It's time to find out who her real husband was.

Here's where the movie should kick in. What's behind all this? Who is the real Heard? In a better thriller, Hawn would find the one tragic, sympathetic note in his past that explained everything. All she uncovers are the shortcomings of screenwriters Mary Agnes Donoghue and Derek Saunders. Heard's character is a smudgy composite of thumbnail nonsense. Rather than unpeel layers, the writers add them.

Hawn finds further misdeeds that constitute a triple-play deception. But those findings only produce further questions. Actually, there are questions everywhere. If Heard's such a smooth operator, why does he leave so much evidence? Why does the movie speed through the Hawn-Heard marriage? No sooner has Heard met and charmed Hawn than they're toasting their sixth anniversary.

As for modulation of menace, "Deceived" is a feature-length cliche, from fluttering pigeons at the window to policemen at the door. Even the requisite last-minute killing shows suspicious similarities to a climactic scene in Jean-Jacques Beineix's "Diva." Filmmaker Harris and co. indulge in dimestore boo! tactics. Someone's after Hawn. Is he around the corner? Noooo. Is he behind the pillar? Noooo. It's scarier wondering what's really on your popcorn. When all is said and (re)done, there's nothing left except a lite aftertaste.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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