“Malice” (1992) starring Alec Baldwin, Nicole Kidman, & Bill Pullman

Deception. Betrayal. Murder. Some things you never see coming. -Tag line

This is one of several thrillers made during the early 1990s set around husband and wife characters. The films incl. Deceived (1991), Shattered (1991), Mortal Thoughts (1991), Consenting Adults (1992), Unlawful Entry (1992), Presumed Innocent (1990), Guilty as Sin (1993), Sleeping with the Enemy (1991), and A Kiss Before Dying (1991). So far, I’ve only seen Consenting Adults (starring Kevin Kline, Kevin Spacey, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, and Rebecca Miller- wife of Daniel Day Lewis) and Sleeping with the Enemy (one of Julia Roberts’ first movies; it spawned 14 remakes internationally). I saw Malice (first time) last week; I never knew it was co-written by Aaron Sorkin (who also wrote A Few Good Men and created one of my fave TV shows- The West Wing)! It was originally intended to be filmed at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, MA (not Smith College). After reviewing the script, the college president declined, due to the serial rapist subplot. The movie was moved to Smith in Northampton; they only agreed as long as the college name was changed. In the opening, the little house that the young student lives in is the former residence of Pres. Coolidge.

This is the type of film that you have to see twice to get all that’s going on. On the first watch, it’s a compelling psychological thriller w/ twists and turns; the plot contains rape, murder, life-and-death trauma, and a deadly fight (all w/ in the first 45 mins). On the re-watch, you find the things you might’ve missed; it’s a chance to enjoy the terrific performances from the three leads- Alec Baldwin, Nicole Kidman, and Bill Pullman. There are brief appearances by Gwyneth Paltrow (a slacker student/one of her early roles) and Joshua Malina (a medical resident/old friend of Sorkin). Veteran actors George C. Scott and Anne Bancroft have small, yet pivotal, roles. Peter Gallagher plays the lawyer who holds some clues to Tracy’s (mysterious) past.

I’m the new guy around here and I want to make friends, so I’ll say this to you and we’ll start fresh. If you don’t like my jokes, don’t laugh. If you have a medical opinion, then please speak up and speak up loud. But if you ever again tell me or my surgical staff that we’re going to lose a patient, I’m gonna take out your lungs with a fuckin’ ice cream scoop. Do you understand me? -Jed explains to Dr. Robertson (after they operate on the college student/rape survivor)

Andy Safian (Pullman- looking youthful at 40) is an associate dean at a smal college outside Boston that’s being terrorized by a serial rapist. Tracy (Kidman- looking gorgeous as usual) is his younger wife who volunteers as an art teacher in the Pediatrics ward of the local hospital, St. Agnes. They’re newlyweds renovating a Victorian house and need $14K to overhaul its plumbing. Dr. Jed Hill (Baldwin- looking gorgeous also) is the hotshot new surgeon at St. Agnes and a former HS classmate of Andy’s. Jed needs a place to stay; Andy and Tracy need the extra money. Soon, Jed is living on the 3rd floor; his noisy date w/ his surgical nurse, Tanya (Debrah Farentino), is grating on Tracy’s nerves. The rapes continue; Andy is even considered a suspect! Andy’s detective friend, Dana (Bebe Neuwirth), convinces him to come to the police station to eliminate himself as a suspect. Meanwhile, Tracy comes home and collapses from pains to her abdomen (a possible ovarian cyst)!

I have an M.D. from Harvard, I am board certified in cardio-thoracic medicine and trauma surgery, I have been awarded citations from seven different medical boards in New England, and I am never, ever sick at sea. So I ask you; when someone goes into that chapel and they fall on their knees and they pray to God that their wife doesn’t miscarry or that their daughter doesn’t bleed to death or that their mother doesn’t suffer acute neural trama from postoperative shock, who do you think they’re praying to? Now, go ahead and read your Bible, Dennis, and you go to your church, and, with any luck, you might win the annual raffle, but if you’re looking for God, he was in operating room number two on November 17, and he doesn’t like to be second guessed. You ask me if I have a God complex. Let me tell you something: I am God. -Jed declares during the deposition

On my second watch, I saw that there were hints that Jed and Tracy knew each other from before. Jed and Tracy meet in the bathroom when Tracy drops her meds; she angrily asks: “What the hell are you doing here?” (in a tone that one doesn’t use w/ new acquaintances). Also, notice the looks of anger and jealousy when Tracy sees Tanya coming out of Jed’s room late at night. Fans of the noir genre will notice the noir-inspired choices made by the director (Harold Becker), esp. in the second half. This film is classified as a “neo-noir thriller,” according to Wikipedia. The sometimes haunting music (composed by Jerry Goldsmith) really sets the mood. This film harkens back- at times- to the Golden Age of Hollywood.

[1] …Baldwin’s mesmerizing performance is what stands out. Jed is charismatic, seductive, and as charming as a cobra as he weaves his spell over the Safians. Baldwin’s ability to jump from utterly charming to incredibly chilling in the blink of an eye is on full display here; it is truly the performance of a lifetime.

[2] It’s the uncertainties in the movie that make it one to remember. See it, you will not be disappointed! The background musical score is one of the most memorable that I have heard in any movie. Malice is a tale of arrogance, power, mystery, and deception, that must be seen and will be long remembered after the final credits roll.

[3] Alec Baldwin… is splendid as the doctor/villain [and what a smoothie he is]. His God “complex” speech is one of the highlights. Then there’s the delicious Nicole Kidman… What makes her performance stand out to me is that, as wild and evil as she can be, there’s also a vulnerability in her portrayal. You actually care what happens to her, even though you know she deserves to get caught. […] And Bill Pullman, being given a sort of wimpish character to play, brings it way up to the same level as the stronger characters with his performance. He does an outstanding job in this flick. 

[4] She’s [Anne Bancroft] like the spider with the fly with she’s talking with Kidman’s hubby who just doesn’t get the situation. Bancroft brings enormous power to this character.

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

3 thoughts on ““Malice” (1992) starring Alec Baldwin, Nicole Kidman, & Bill Pullman

    • Yeah, I think these sorta “domestic thrillers” aren’t being made much anymore , except maybe on Lifetime channel (LOL)! I haven’t seen many yet, BUT think interested to examine as a dying genre.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think I read the Scott Turow novel of “Presumed Innocent.” I don’t mind them so much that way and Turow is (was?) a great author of this kind of thing. It’s just too scary for me to watch on a screen.

        Like

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