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'The Morning After' (R)

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
December 26, 1986

There's pain, but no gain in Jane Fonda's "The Morning After," a non-impact thriller about a hard-drinking Hollywood has-been who wakes up in bed with a corpse and no memory of the night before. Jeff Bridges costars as a retired detective who helps solve the mystery -- which is about as suspenseful as Fonda's Pregnancy Workout.

James Hicks -- pen name for James "Household Name" Cresson, just in case you might recognize him -- writes the pedestrian drama in which our frowsy-haired, fuzzy-thinking heroine is perhaps the only one who doesn't know whodunit. The choices are Fonda, Bridges (who proved the suprise culprit in "Jagged Edge") and Raul Julia, in a costarring role as Fonda's estranged hairdresser husband.

Julia adds an occasional spark in his role of a social-climbing Chicano, national origin being important here because the Bridges character is such a bigot -- "an anthropologist for the Klan," as Fonda puts it. Apparently she is not the WASP she seems either, and Bridges' religious intolerance -- overdone and out of context -- is put to the test when he learns that she might be Jewish.

But what the heck, our hung-over heroine falls hard for our good 'ol boy gumshoe as they move toward a resolution. Such chemistry, too. When they finally kiss each other hard on the lips, it's like two vacuum cleaners in a clinch.

Fonda's performance reeks of self-discipline, of mental push-ups and buttock tucks. But she should have stretched: You've got to be loose to play a lush. Bridges is cuddly, kindly and doesn't fool anybody for a minute. He looks as enthusiastic as the fourth guy down the couch from Johnny Carson. And Sidney Lumet of "The Verdict" directs with all the subtlety of a Ukrainian snowplow. The tempo is slushy and there's not a good scare in sight.

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