something satisfying about watching a beleaguered woman get revenge on a
lowdown-scumsucker of a husband. True, there's also something satisfying about
substantive characters and plots without whopping big holes in them. But you
can't have everything.
seems to be the conclusion reached by the makers of Double Jeopardy: it
omits substance but delivers a neatly vengeful climax (which is never in doubt,
by the way, despite several maladroit attempts to create "suspense" or
"complications" in the plot that is only going where it must go). The
tradeoff appears to be structured as a rudimentary moral opposition. You have a
clearly defined victim and villain, in this case a young and pretty (and
unnervingly naive) wife/mother and a consummately despicable husband/father.
Indeed, the deck is so stacked for you to identify with Libby that it's hard not
to feel a brief twinge of pleasure when she rises up, bloodied and exhausted, to
smite her oppressor.
more distressing is the fact that the film is populated with skillful actors who
have done excellent work elsewhere, and directed by Bruce Beresford, who has
done solid work in the past (Breaker Morant and Tender Mercies
stand out as subtle explorations of familial and political milieus, even if Driving
Miss Daisy is notoriously offensive on precisely these counts). This film
actually looks very good -- the scenes are generally well-cut, the slow motion
effects used to convey the protagonist's distress aren't too fatuous, and the
melodrama is tolerable. The question you're left with, the one that picks at you
throughout the film, however, is this: how did such a talented and experienced
company imagine they could salvage such a silly script?
by David Weisberg and Douglas S. Cook, the film resembles their first big hit, The
Rock, in its predilection for rollercoasterish thrills and illogics. The
film begins with basic, thumbnail introductions. Libby (Ashley Judd, who hasn't
had a role worth her talent since her first one, in Victor Nunez's lovely Ruby
in Paradise) is introduced sitting outside her huge seaside home in Seattle,
spending quality time with her adorable young son, Matty. She loves her son and
her husband Nick (Bruce Greenwood, incredibly good in two recent Atom Egoyan
movies, Exotica and The Sweet Hereafter, and slightly less
wonderful in Disturbing Behavior and the TV series Nowhere Man).
Her life seems so perfect -- what can she possibly want?
she wants a sailboat, which provides her Nick with exactly the bait he needs to
set her up for his murder. The movie doesn't waste any time establishing his
deceitfulness: when he tells Libby that he's willing to go sailing with her, the
camera lingers on his distanced expression and his exchanges of meaningful looks
with Libby's supposed "best friend," Angie (Annabeth Gish, who also
has not had a decent part since her sensational debut in Desert Bloom).
The fateful day comes: Libby and Nick sail, make love, drink wine. She wakes in
the middle of the night with blood all over her. She runs to the deck to scream
for her missing husband, and lo! finds a knife which she promptly picks up just
in time for the Coast Guard to shine a spotlight on her.
goes to prison for murder (with no body in sight) and convinces Angie to adopt
Matty, for his sake of course. Where Libby's lawyer is during any of this is
unclear. In prison, she phones Angie, hears Nick in the background, and is
suddenly horrified that she has been so laughably gullible. Luckily, she meets
Margaret (Roma Maffia, who also needs a better agent, after performing so
consistently well in TVís erratic series, Profiler), a former lawyer
who tells her about this fifth amendment outlawing double jeopardy (being
convicted twice for the same crime). She can kill Nick.
that she has a goal, Libby turns into Linda Hamilton: she goes running in the
rain, pumps iron, and does sit-ups in her cell, apparently for six years. Once
released, she's assigned to a parole officer, Travis Lehman (Tommy Lee Jones,
who should be sick of this bounty hunter role by now, having played versions of
it in The Fugitive, U.S. Marshals, and even Men in Black),
who takes a particular interest in her case when she dumps his beater car off a
ferry, slams him in the head with his own gun, and escapes his custody while a
crowd of ferry-riders watches the show. Not to be outdone by a woman, Travis
makes it his personal mission to track down Libby, as she, in turn, tracks down
would appear that Double Jeopardy fancies itself a feminist film, because
it features a potent woman who kicks ass and is a good mother to boot:
ostensibly, the reason she does any of what she does -- almost drowning, getting
nailed into a coffin, jumping through windows, running down long stretches of
beachfront -- is because she loves her son so very much and wants to retrieve
him from his dreadfully self-centered dad.
possible that a more credible plot and critique might be made concerning the
judicial system that incarcerates people with no evidence, the incarceration
system that puts all kinds of inmates in cells and cafeterias and showers
together (thus creating criminals rather than rehabilitating them), or even the
insurance system that allows preposterous policies to be signed and paid,
despite manifestly corrupt intentions. But no. Basing the plot in an array of
unlikely relationships, individual displays of fortitude, and preposterous
opportunities for betrayal makes the whole shebang seem trivial and tacky. So
much for women's issues and rights.