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‘Something to Talk About’ (R)

By Hal Hinson
Washington Post Staff Writer
August 04, 1995

From the moment the alarm rings in the opening scene of Lasse Halstrom's warmhearted, energetic "Something to Talk About," Grace (Julia Roberts) and Eddie (Dennis Quaid) keep missing each other. They may be side by side in bed, but she's so busy—managing the stable for her father, compiling a cookbook for her women's club and attempting to be the ideal Southern wife, mother and daughter—that she can't even spare a second for a good morning smooch. Sometimes, she moves so fast that she motors off without realizing that she's left her daughter (adorable Haley Aull) behind.

Then Grace sees Eddie passionately kissing a young blonde in front of an office building. And for Grace everything comes to a dead stop.

Despite the fact that Eddie's high school nickname was "Hound Dog," the discovery of her husband's infidelity seems to take Grace completely by surprise, throwing all her assumptions about life into question. Though everyone keeps telling her to roll with the punches—that her husband is just being a man—she has no intention of letting him off the hook. If turning a blind eye is the way the marriage game is played, she is taking her ball and going home—and her enraged protest against the rules threatens to bring the whole community down around her. In one hilarious scene, Grace throws the social equivalent of a hand grenade into a charity league meeting when she starts announcing who's sleeping with whom in order to get more info on Eddie.

With Grace running around out of control, no one is safe, particularly not her tough, cantankerous father (Robert Duvall), who ruled his family like a bantam Mussolini until Grace informs her mother (played with gracious restraint by Gena Rowlands) that father had a wandering eye, as well.

Working from a script by Callie Khouri ("Thelma & Louise"), Halstrom orchestrates these potentially weighty themes with a pleasingly light comic touch. His first love is character—the more eccentric the better—and perhaps his greatest strength as a director is a sensitivity to the individual quirks of his actors. And, for the most part, the actors have responded.

The real standout is Duvall, who plays his charming Southern despot in full strut, filling in every corner of his character with odd bits of craggy business. His performance—which is also chock-full of the most shameless mugging—probably makes the character more likable than Khouri intended. Actually, everybody is nice here—even the bastards. As Eddie, Quaid gets a chance to do some of his most resonant work—that is, when he's not flashing his trademark wrap-around smile. Kyra Sedgwick, who plays Grace's sister, probably has the picture's best lines, and she hits them dead-on. And Rowlands makes a great partner for Duvall; she and her character hold their own.

The only character who tests our patience is the woman at the center. Roberts can only hint at the changes Grace is forced to go through, and as a result, Grace seems harsher and more self-centered than she should. When she tells her mother about her father's indiscretions, she comes across as bratty; even though she's in the right, she sounds like a pill.

To their credit, the filmmakers haven't simply created a situation where the man is the creep. Though Eddie has to pay for his indiscretions—and in the process learns the true value of his family—Grace is forced to acknowledge her role as well. The ending is still pat, with lots of reasons for optimism, but "Something" is not as neatly—or falsely—resolved as most Hollywood films. Halstrom may be a cornball and a softy at heart, but he allows real hurt, real betrayal and real healing into his movie.

Something to Talk About is rated R.

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