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‘Something to Talk About’ (R)

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
August 04, 1995

In "Something to Talk About," Julia Roberts is driving through town with her young daughter when she spots Dennis Quaid, her trusted husband, passionately embracing a blond woman. Devastated, she comes back to a message machine full of won't-be-home-till-late lies from Quaid. She decides it's time to kick out the SOB (whose college nickname was "Hound Dog") and do something about her life.

In this bittersweet comedy about women's rage and men's failings, Roberts struggles with destroyed faith, heartbreak and bottomless anger, while Quaid, torn with remorse, tries to get a foot in the swiftly closing door of his marriage.

When Roberts's father, Robert Duvall, attempts to get her to relent—in part because both families have an impending business deal—Roberts blows the whistle on the old man too. Suddenly Duvall, used to lording it over everyone, has to face an angry wife (Gena Rowlands), who wants to know about his former dalliances.

Part comedy of manners, and mostly gender warfare, "Something" is designed to get the partisan juices boiling. Screenwriter Callie Khouri, who wrote the marvelous "Thelma & Louise," has a gift for catching the oppression of women in everyday situations and putting a sanguine comic twist on it. But in her zeal to portray a world full of male scum, she creates a morally mismatched, pandering scenario.

In this bubbly "When Sally Snipped Harry," Khouri goes for the girlfriend-to-girlfriend one-liner rather than sexual balance. Women rise from the sanctimonious ruins of victimhood and put the bite on everyone, while the worthless male principals (Quaid and Duvall) flounder in denial, lies and adultery—eventually coming to trial for their actions. Quaid gets kneed in the soft parts (by Roberts's tell-it-like-it-is sister, Kyra Sedgwick) and deliberately food poisoned (by sweet but still-angry Julia). And Duvall gets unceremoniously locked out of his house and life.

And the zingers keep coming. "What was he thinking of?" says Rowlands when she hears about Quaid's extramarital behavior. "Probably the same thing he was thinking with," replies Sedgwick, who seems to exist primarily for such utterances. "It's a territorial thing," she says later, as the sisters watch maritally exiled Duvall wandering pitifully around his house. "He's probably out there [expletive]-ing on trees."

Director Lasse Hallstrom brings back expert cinematographer Sven Nykvist (they worked together on "What's Eating Gilbert Grape?") to splash the thematic tears-and-laughlines with comely light. Everyone looks great, even during the worst of times.

Roberts, whose hairstyle appears to change overnight at one point, does what she's best at: playing cute princess, even when she's lacing Quaid's dinner with poison. Apparently, her talents don't extend to dancing, though. The movie makes much of the fact that Quaid and Roberts became attracted because they were such hot dancers together. But during a will-they-get-back-together? dance late in the movie (when you've been conditioned, in that Hollywood way, to expect footwork fireworks), it's clear that Roberts is only slightly better than John Madden. The camera cuts immediately from Roberts and Quaid to stunt dancers, then ends the scene rapidly. So much for the Astaire and Rogers of the '90s. Adultery is bad news all right, but if these guys can't dance, what's the point of getting back together?

SOMETHING TO TALK ABOUT (R) — Contains sexual situations and profanity.

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