tagReviews & EssaysReview: Lady Beware

Review: Lady Beware


Diane Lane has developed into such a winning and wonderful actress in her recent roles ("Unfaithful," "A Walk on the Moon," "Must Love Dogs," "Nights in Rodanthe") that you really have to make yourself remember that she belonged to the Brat Pack of the 1980s, the collection of young actors that included Emilio Estevez, Tom Cruise, Demi Moore, and others. That she's thrived in recent years is a credit to her resilience and smart choices. Ok, her filmmography isn't exactly littered with hits like some of those other actors ("Judge Dredd" anyone? how about "Knight Moves?"), but she's kept herself in the public eye enough to keep herself relevant.

But as rewarding as her recent roles have been for fans, her younger days set the stage. The subject of this review- a 1987 thriller that will likely not see DVD anytime, well, ever- is from that period.

One look, and you can see why it doesn't get mentioned alongside the Coppola-directed films she found herself in early on ("The Outsiders," "Rumble Fish"). This is one of those films actors take to pay their dues; when they finally hit the big-time, it typically won't get mentioned. And watching it again, I can understand why. It's unlikely the film would get high-billing on late night cable TV, let alone a successful run in theatres. It's pure '80s cheese, and the acting is not exactly, well, good.

So why do I continue to watch it? This is where the term "guilty pleasure" comes in handy, although I've typically not felt guilty liking this movie, filmed in Pittsburgh. Originally, the pull was one felt far below the neck- young Diane Lane=hot; naked young Diane Lane in a film about sexual desire=get the cold shower ready- but the film's ultimate pleasure comes from Lane's acting chops, not her comely form (although I did find myself saying "come to daddy" when that form was on full display...hey, I'm a guy, and I like me the ta-tas).

Lane stars as Katya Yarno, a young woman coming to the big city to work as a window dresser at a prestigious store downtown. She's got some bold ideas that get the attention of not just the store's owner but the public. Prudes chastise her erotically-charged imagination (kids do pass by the windows), but others are more stimulated, including a magazine writer (Cotter Smith, in a completely throw-away performance) who has more on his mind than just an interesting story (is their first dinner scene not one of the cheesiest examples of flirting ever put onscreen?), and a passer-by (who actually works across the street, and is played by Michael Woods) who begins to take a personal interest in Katya, by which I mean, obscene phone calls, following her home, watching her from her window (even though she's in a top-floor loft), and eventually, more depraved behavior that takes an emotional and psychological toll on Katya.

Kind of a disturbing story, isn't it? Indeed it is. It's also as logically off-kilter as its bad guy. This stalker not only has a wife and kid (a daughter, no less) but also works as a gynecologist. He doesn't really look very trustworthy- how exactly did he slip by the medical board's radar, let alone convince any woman that he was marriage material, to say nothing of a good father? These are some of the questions I had going in my mind as I was watching the film again, as well as, with all of the stuff he's got in his life, how exactly does he have the time to stalk Katya, even late at night? Fear not though, he'll get his comeuppance in the end, even if it lacks the thrill-junkie antics of "Fatal Attraction."

That doesn't make it less satisfying, and that's because of Lane. This is one of those performances where you see an actor start to come into their own, and make more out of a role than the script lets on. Of course, this film is clearly- by design- a feminist slant on "Fatal Attraction," but it also harkens back to a movie I heard about from the '50s by actress-turned-director Ida Lupino called "Outrage," which looked at the psychological toll rape had on its' heroine, who was about to get married. I've never seen the movie, but after hearing about it during Martin Scorsese's "A Personal Journey With Martin Scorsese Through American Movies," I was instantly curious to see it one day.

In "Lady Beware," Lane takes Katya to those same psychological extremes as Woods' stalker- who calls himself Jack- gets more and more deranged in his abuse, and more and more obsessed in his desire. Her vulnerability at these moments is heartbreaking and palpable, which only makes her determination to turn the tables all the more satisfying in the end. Lane has some amateurish moments early on, but by the end, she's shown us glimpses of the smart, beautiful, and appealing woman we'll see onscreen 20 years later. Imagine that- I came to this movie for the erotic fantasy (one fantasy of hers we see has always done it for me) and the gratuitous nudity featuring its' star (trust me guys, it's worth all the cheese), but what has me watching over 10 years later (I first discovered the movie after watching Lane in "Murder at 1600") is ultimately all that matters- seeing a great actress make the most of what, surprisingly, seems more and more, like a really great role to have stumbled onto.

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