Secret Shames

(Preamble: A few years back, each member of the Pajiba staff publicly admitted their love of a crappy film. These weren’t movies that are so bad they’re cool, like Showgirls, The Room, or Killing Me Softly, which enjoy cult status. No, they’re the kinds of movies that defy ironic appreciation, lacking even an ounce of trainwreck hipness. These are the Pauly Shore clunkers, the Michael Bay turds, and the Bette Midler dreck, and they are hard for a film geek to cop to. The thing is, we all have a few of these in our innermost pocket. I say: own the motherfuckers.)

I can’t help liking Sleeping with the Enemy, or at least liking to watch it (is there a difference?). It’s appealed to me from the start, and I’ve seen it six times over the years. I mean, there’s no justifying it, really. One could argue that it’s palatable because it’s an early Roberts film, made just before she became the world’s most overexposed star; because Patrick Bergin’s abusive husband is a great screen villain; because the moment when he finds his supposedly drowned wife’s ring in the plumbing is a real ooker; because the film indulges that fake-my-own-death-and-start-fresh impulse we get when things are rough; because Sleeping with the Enemy helped publicize the blights of domestic abuse and marital rape; or because I just want Patrick’s beach house, or Julia’s quaint little porch-house in Iowa.

Or maybe its appeal lurks in its atmosphere — a browny warmy feel that pervades the film, even in the stark rooms of the Burneys’ modern home. Maybe it’s Ben, the World’s Best Boyfriend, a real, live Non-Threatening Boy with brown curls. Maybe it’s all the kind strangers who reach hands out to limping Laura as she chin-ups her way back into society. Maybe it’s Roberts herself who, back in the 90s, really did look like some ethereal femme (I’ve since lost my one-time girl-crush on her — tastes change, and bad 90s hair detracts). I have no idea what it is about this movie, but it’s been a couple of years since my last view, and writing about it makes me want to rush out and rent it right now. God. Take me out back and shoot me. — Ranylt Richildis

(Originally published as part of Pajiba’s Guide to What’s Good for You series, on August 2, 2007.)

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