Magazine article The Spectator

Misplaced Hitchockiana

Magazine article The Spectator

Misplaced Hitchockiana

Article excerpt

What Lies Beneath (15, selected cinemas)

What's happened to Harrison Ford? He seems to be shrivelling away before our eyes into a strange little walnut head topped with a grey rug modelled on George Michael in his Sony lawsuit period. Sometimes he has an earring. Mostly he has a permanently startled expression, like a gerbil who's just been told he's being delivered to a Hollywood party. His recent pairings - with Julia Ormond in Sabrina, with Anne Heche in Six Days, Seven Nights, with Kristin Scott Thomas in Random Hearts - have had all the chemistry of the Prince and Princess of Wales on their last Australian tour.

One of the big problems is the voice, which seems trapped in some close-miked late-night disc-jockey whisper. It's a mode that's utterly useless for most of the humdrum transactions of daily life - ordering a quarter-pounder, large fries and vanilla shake at a drive-thru McDonald's, say and, in his last three or four films, you can judge the effectiveness of his performance by how often the director's prevailed upon him to drop this ludicrous affectation. In What Lies Beneath, a ghost story, he spends a lot of time drizzling his voice like a salad dressing over his twitchy leading lady. That's about as engaged as he gets. The ghost goes around slamming doors, filling bathtubs, knocking over picture frames, and is actually a far more vivid presence than the ghostly Ford, shambling around his own movie like The Film Star That Time Forgot.

The one good thing this time out is that he has Michelle Pfeiffer. Paired with cool Brits (Miss Scott Thomas), wacky lesbians (Miss Heche) and crashing bores (Miss Ormond), Ford could never quite hide his condescension. He knows better than to try that with a fellow Hollywood bluechip, and you can at least believe their two characters could conceivably co-exist in the same story. Miss Pfeiffer looks good, though not as good as the dream-house lakefront property in Vermont in which the story is set. I like my Vermont a little less airbrushed, personally, but, to modify the old rep actor's credo, if you're going to bump into the furniture, this is the furniture to bump into.

Norman (Ford) and Claire (Miss Pfeiffer) have come back to the old family house to fix it up. But, when she's alone in the joint, she can't help but notice the strange goings on - the dogs barking at unseen threats, those doors opening and closing all by themselves, strange breezes, somebody playing a damn cello every hour of the day - no, hang on, that's the soundtrack. …

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