Sandra F. (Sami) from ST PETERSBURG, FL Reviewed on 5/24/2008...
Good thriller with a twist at the end. Worth watching.
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Better than its reputation
Dennis Littrell | SoCal | 04/24/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"First of all I have no idea why this was named "Mortal Thoughts." More appropriate would be, "Fatal Lies" or "An Inadvertent Confession," or maybe "Desperate Friends."
Be that as it may, this is a superior thriller mainly because the story is compelling and the acting is first rate. Demi Moore who plays Cynthia is just outstanding. She commands the screen with her beautiful and expressive features and her great natural skill. If you don't like her, I guarantee you will not like this movie because she dominates the film. She is as vivid and unforgettable as an Al Pacino or a Betty Davis.
As an aside on the career of Demi Moore, I want to say that it's a shame for her that her off-screen personality is not well liked, which in large part accounts for the fact that she is one of the most underrated, although one of the most often seen and hardest-working stars of the last fifteen years or so. This movie is an example of how she is ignored. The plain fact is her performance here is better than many who have won Oscars, and she wasn't even nominated. Another problem for her is that this movie (and others she has made) are not the sort of films that the Academy pays much attention to. Mortal Thoughts (which she co-produced, by the way) is too low-budget, too "common" one might say, for any part in it to be taken seriously in an artistic sense. Too bad.
Glenne Headly (Joyce) is also outstanding while Bruce Willis is excellent as Joyce's drug-addled, boozing, wife-beating loser of a husband. The dialogue is right on, realistically depicting the lives of New Jersey beauty shop people while the plot told in ersatz flashbacks unfolds nicely with a fine tension.
The story is that of two friends, Joyce and Cynthia who find they have to cover up a killing (NOT a murder, but at worst a manslaughter, or better yet, a case of self-defense), but fall apart as the investigation closes in on them. In a sense they are both like Lady Macbeth with blood on their hands and no effective way to wash it off. They are both appropriately naive as young working-class women, and both act foolishly, as many of us might in their predicament.
Here's a nice bit of ironic dialogue. Joyce is questioning her ability to convince people about what happened. She tells Cynthia that she isn't a very good liar. But Cynthia reassures her: "Joyce, you're a terrific liar. You just lost confidence in yourself."
This is all to the good as far as film-making goes. It is the ending that is the problem.
One might ask, what happened to the ending? Maybe I need to watch this again to be sure I didn't miss anything. But better yet, YOU watch it and you be the judge. What I think happened is director Alan Rudolph truncated it. Either that or he decided to try something artistic, which I don't recommend in a commercial thriller flick. Maybe they just ran out of money and had to wrap it up. At any rate, we are left wondering what is going to happen and who actually did what to whom. Presumably, the last flashback from Cynthia tells us how Bruce Willis's character met his end, but that doesn't solve the problem of how or why [somebody else] was shot full of holes. Maybe the producers thought they would wrap it all up in a sequel. Actually, there's enough there for one, easily.
I would also like to complain about a movie that acts out a false story told by one of the characters as though the story were true. That can be done, but it must be done in such a way that there is some kind of hint or "coloring" of the story that allows the viewer to suspect that something is amiss. True, Det. John Woods (Harvey Keitel) makes some compelling arguments along the way to suggest that Cynthia is not telling the truth, but we are mislead by the actions that our eyes see and the sounds that our ears hear. In movies, since anything can be contrived, it is the usual rule to have the camera show the truth while letting the characters do the lying.
What might have saved this (and what I was expecting all the way through) is Joyce's side of the story acted out on screen so that we could compare the stories and make our choice about who was telling the truth.
Bottom line: better than one might expect with a realistic edge clearly a notch or two above the usual thriller fare."
A superb thriller/drama with a terrible miscalculation
Mr. Cairene | Cairo, Egypt | 04/30/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Alan Rudolph's Mortal Thoughts is a drama about murder, not movie murder where a hitmen shoots a guy dead with rock music on the soundtrack, but real-life murder, where the killer/killers have a crises of conscience, act with shock, disbelief and paranoia. The film is set around two couples, James (Bruce Willis) & Joyce(Glenne Headly)and Cynthia(Demi Moore) & Arthur (John Pankow). The film starts out as a pitch black comedy, with Bruce Willis giving an excellent performance as the loud, abusive and downright nasty James. His wife Joyce played by the lovely Glenne Headly is a neurotic who is constantly half kidding her best friend Cynthia about how she would like to kill him. The whole movie is carefully framed with a detective (Harvey Kietel) asking Cynthia questions about one or several crimes. Slowly the flashbacks reveal the events as if they were happening in real time, and the film's momentum builds to a point where it becomes an unbearably tense drama. The murder or murders in Mortal Thoughts are not commited by a movie-physcopath, but people who have lost their nerve. Throught out the film they have to clean up after it, hide evidence and virtually go insane in the proccess. It the documentary like portrayel of the murders and the first rate acting that makes this film so much better then the countless other murder mysteries you may have seen. The film however does have one major flaw. After slowly revealing its cards with tense intorrogation scenes the ending is a complete cop out. Without giving anything away, I will say that after working so hard on revealing the facts in the detective's questioning, the truth is unveiled by us seeing the thoughts of one of the major characters. This is not only cheating, but it also leaves a second major crime unresolved. Despite this, I highly reccomend you see this film. It has a certain truthfulness that makes it more unerving then many serial killer movies."
Undeservedly Unsung, First Rate Crime Movie
snalen | UK | 03/24/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Alan Rudoph started out as something of a protégé of Altman's in the 1970s, assistant directing on The Long Goodbye, California Split and Nashville. Since then he's made a good number of movies of his own that, from what I've seen, tend to be rather uncommercial, slow, serious, painstakingly realistic, sometimes maybe a little dull, but often very interesting films. This is certainly a high point, very interesting indeed and very far from dull. It's a really first rate crime story comprising a long conversation between a detective, played by Harvey Keitel and the central character Cynthia, played by Demi Moore in one of her best performances. The story she has to tell is relayed to us in flashback and deals with her best friend Joyce (Glenne Headly, another excellent performance) and her truly horrible, brutal bully of a husband James (Bruce Willis, also excellent - hateful and frightening but very believable); how Joyce always liked to fantasise about killing James off; how one day he does indeed end up dead; how they agree to lose the body and say nothing to anyone, how their relationship then bends and breaks under the strain; and what happens next. This subtle, intelligent, fabulously well-constructed film is one of the very best crime movies to come from the States in recent years and deserves to be a lot better known."
Muscular Mystery Set in New Jersey's White Working Class
Stephanie DePue | Carolina Beach, NC USA | 09/12/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Mortal Thoughts" (1991), produced by one of its own stars, Demi Moore, and directed by Alan Rudolph, is very different from that director's usual laidback work. It presents viewers with one tough little low-budget mystery, set in the New Jersey city of Bayonne, among its white, urban working class, in the drug-addled 1980's: check out the big hair.
The film centers on two hairdressers, best friends since infancy, now married, with young children, and working together: Joyce Urbanski, played by Glenne Headley, unhappily married to James (Bruce Willis); and Cynthia Kellogg (Moore), married to Arthur (John Pankow). Harvey Keitel plays police detective John Wood, who comes into their lives. Willis takes big brave chances playing in his wife, Demi Moore's movie, as an obnoxious, drug-addicted, abusive husband who's wearing red pants when he finally gets his. The story's narrated in flashback by Cynthia, as she tells it to the police: there's an aspect of "Rashomon:" here, as we know only what she tells us, and must decide whether her tale is truthful or not. (And we never do get all the mysteries exactly explained.)
Interestingly enough, three of the five principals are of working-class origins themselves. Demi Moore was raised in a series of trailer parks; her family moved 40 times; and she quit school at 16 to work as a pinup. Willis actually grew up in New Jersey, attended Montclair State University there, and worked as a waiter and bartender before finally hitting his stride. Keitel was born in Brooklyn, a borough of New York City. The working class roots of these actors surely give a sense of reality and solidity to their portrayals here. Headley is odd man out in this crowd; she's from a pretty classy Connecticut town, and was educated in Switzerland: nevertheless, her portrayal -- and accent-- are accurate. Headley was odd man out among this picture's company in another way: Moore, Willis, and Keitel were all suffering career slumps when they made it.
The death of Joyce's husband sends the two old friends into collusion: both mindful of their young children, they work together to try to clean up their mess. Moore looks beautiful, and her acting is affecting, she's by turns vulnerable, determined, cornered, downcast. She really can be said to carry her own movie. Finally, it's really an uusual pleasure, still, to watch two prime actresses carry a movie such as this."
Genuine performances from real people, over the top in parts
:::DIGITAL BABE::: | 01/02/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This film has been one of my "guilty pleasures" for years. I tend to gravitate towards stories and films, with "real" characters. One of the things I like about this film, is its ability to create drama in a real situation, with ordinary people. The film is about loyalty to best friends, family, husbands and one's conscience.
I have never been a huge fan of Demi Moore (Indecent Proposal, and Mortal Thoughts being the exceptions), but in this film, she is a standout. Her emotional expressions and scenes with Harvey Keitel are genuine and believable. She is truly focused on her acting, prior to having become a "sex symbol". The film depicts the degeneration of several marriages, and tests the loyalty of friends, co-workers, and significnat others, while the central characters navigate a situation that pits them against each other. A classic good cop, bad cop drama, the film allows the actors to perform true to life scenes, with a grittiness that is often lost in Hollywood's over-stylized "dragedies"."