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‘Three of Hearts’ (R)

By Joe Brown
Washington Post Staff Writer
April 30, 1993

Remember when gay activists were all upset over the way lesbians were portrayed in "Basic Instinct"? Wait till they get a load of the inane and inept "Three of Hearts," which makes women-loving women look boring and wimpy. They'll be clamoring for "Basic Instinct II: Girlfriend." At least that scary Sapphic Sharon Stone had some fun.

A two-hour anticlimax, "Three of Hearts" manages to offend just about everyone -- women, men, lesbians, heterosexuals, prostitutes and, most of all, moviegoers.

Kelly Lynch and Sherilyn Fenn play Connie and Ellen, a lesbian couple who part ways right after the credits -- before fragile audience members ever have to watch them actually kiss on screen -- because Ellen "needs more space." Connie has to go to a family wedding and, to placate her family, hires pricey rent-a-guy Joe (Billy Baldwin) as her escort. Then she gets the bright idea to have Joe woo her ex, treat her like dirt, thus sending her scampering back to Connie's waiting arms. (Connie also lets this male prostitute move right into her Manhattan apartment, rent-free. Smart girl.)

Fenn is laughably humorless as a prim "lipstick lesbian" college teacher who effortlessly erases her students and her former lover soon after Baldwin audits her course and reads her some poetry. Lynch's character is a registered nurse who favors grungewear -- Axel Rose wishes he could look so tough -- and the actress seems (justifiably) embarrassed by the pathetic, simpering lines she's been paid to dish out.

As for Baldwin, it's hard to see why everyone's all moist over this guy. He's just a low-rent version of his big brother Alec; slouchy, stubbly and lank-haired, with a few nice suits, a husky whisper and a stockpile of psychobabble slogans that win him "any woman. Any place. Any time." Uh-huh.

It's forgivable that "Hearts" doesn't make much sense, but there's not even much sex, which would seem the point of the whole teasing time-waster. "Hearts" opens promisingly enough, with Baldwin lounging in the tub, talking sexy (something about ice cubes) to a client on the phone. Oops! Call waiting . . .

Actually, it sounds like Baldwin is describing one of director Adrian Lyne's love-transaction movies. Maybe "9 1/2 Weeks." By comparison, that was fun, sexy trash. "Three of Hearts" is garbage. There's a difference.

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