Consenting Adults [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Kino Lorber
Review written by and copyright: Robert Segedy (12th July 2018).
The Film

“Thou shall not covet thy Neighbor’s Wife.”

Man, I must be on some type of sucker list because I keep getting these really bad films sent to me. Take "Consenting Adults" for example, I see that Alan J. Pakula directed it and I know that he has had a few winners in the past, such as "All The President’s Men" (1976) and "Presumed Innocent" (1990), but those were a long time ago, and I will bet money that those screenplays were well written as well. This thriller was scripted by Matthew Chapman and he must have been saving the good stuff for his solo projects, "The Ledge" (2011) because this film starts out with some life in it, but quickly becomes a muddled mess during the second half.

The film’s opening scenario sets the stage for what follows. We are introduced to Richard (Kevin Kline) and Priscilla (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio), a white bred suburban couple if there ever was one. Richard is shown at work in the studio, because he is one of those frustrated musicians that is paid to create jingles to accompany commercials, and we can see that he is really trying to convey the sponsor’s message that this is really an enlightening experience. Richard is hungry and cranky and the musicians haven’t even had lunch yet and here’s this suit trying to tell him how to do his job. The nerve of him! Back home, life is a picture of domestic bliss, especially as their daughter has been ushered off to a private school and is conveniently out of a great deal of the film, but Priscilla is in bed early falling asleep while reading a magazine. This is cinematic shorthand for the word "boring"! The two look like a super cool couple but to insiders (the audience) it is apparent that the flame has gone out and hence the opportunity of some intrigue. Enter stage left, the new neighbors, Eddy (Kevin Spacey) and Kay Otis (Rebecca Miller), an edgy, super attractive, uber cool set of er... for a lack of a better term, not quite newlyweds. Eddy is a quick talking type of guy that always has a sort of smile on his mug, because you see, these squares just don’t get the joke, but he does. Kay is a hottie as well; she is a tad careless with leaving the window shades up as she exits the hot tub, which is conveniently located right below Richard’s home studio, where he gets an eyeful. Yes, this is headed exactly where you think it is going, but wait, there’s more.

There are plenty of scenes of the two couples being all yuppyish, sailing in a big boat or being wholesome and playing some baseball, which merely gives Richard the excuse for a close tackle at base with Kay while Eddy and Priscilla look on blankly. Sure, there’s nothing going on here, just being friendly… or so the director wants us to think, but I have seen plenty of film noir and I can read the headlines way before they happen. And that is the problem with this film; it can’t decide which side of the fence it wants to be on. Perhaps if Pakula had screened more noir prior to filming this, we could have gotten a better product than this neatly bowed production that does little more than offer 100 minutes of slight entertainment. But I am getting ahead of myself here…. Let’s check back in with the foursome and see what develops.

The two couples are out at some urban honkey tonk (the film is set somewhere outside of Washington, D.C.) and Richard gets the bright idea that Kay can sing and talks her into getting up on stage and crooning an old blues tune. Kay does so displaying some talent while Richard is practically drooling as he sits enraptured. Priscilla is hardly aware of the obvious attraction, but that is because she too is smitten with slick Eddy, and so if this was a grindhouse roughie, directed by the late great Doris Wishman, the two would soon be swapping mates and everyone would be happy. But alas it is not, so there goes that wish. Things are set for a slow boil and then Eddy has to let the Jeanie out the bottle and actually propose a “what if” scenario; “what if we both decide that there is something good waiting for us in each other’s bedrooms and say we come outside at a pre-arranged time and pull a little sitcheroo.” Of course, Richard gets all offended and gets up on his high moral horse and takes offense, basically saying, “Are you out of your mind? There will be no such thing.” Thankfully movies are a predictable thing and we all know that before the credits roll, that the inevitable will have occurred. So one night, we see Richard taking a stroll in the middle of the night and he heads directly over to next door, just waiting to take advantage of the situation. He, of course, meets Eddy doing the same thing, and the two cross paths like ships in the night, each headed for a new port.

Then the film takes a sharp swerve into criminal thriller territory and we are on overly familiar ground, as it is revealed, much to Richard’s horror, that Kay was cold bloodily murdered with a baseball bat and that, surprise, the coroner announces that Richard’s DNA has been found at the crime scene and his fingerprints were also found all over the weapon. Looks like Richard has been played for a patsy and he is expected to take the fall, but he refuses to be the sap and is let out on bail. Now, without a family, Priscilla has announced that she will be pursuing a divorce; Richard becomes a prime noir protagonist as he sets out to prove that Eddy is the real culprit here. What follows is a somewhat convoluted plot with many predictable twists and turns as the bodies continue to pile up. The big reveal comes and there is a small appearance by the under-utilized Forrest Whitaker as an insurance investigator assigned the case, but the film is now running on fumes as all the intrigue of the original scenario is drained from it.

A word regarding the performances: the only real reason to see this film is because of Kevin Spacey’s presentation. Especially in the first half of the film, Spacey delivers his lines with an authentic credibility that gives his psychopathic character a serious presence. Most of us are fortunate enough not to have crossed paths with the like of Eddy Otis, a guy full of all the answers and an ego that makes him feel that he is superior to everyone else, but it is Spacey’s riveting performance that holds this predictable thriller together. Kevin Klein is just not the right type to play the innocent sap and besides that, the moustache is lacking in verve and as a hero on the lam from the law, he ain’t no Fred McMurray. Kline’s screen time feels like he is simply phoning it in, and even though his exchanges with Spacey are interesting, I have a strong desire to slap him and tell him to wake up already and grow a pair. By the time the film concludes, all is well in Richard’s and Priscilla’s world and the threat of Fast Eddy is no more. I can’t say that I loved this film but there are much worse out there.

Video

Presented in widescreen 1.85:1 mastered in HD 1080p 24/fps using AVC MPEG-4 compression, the transfer is acceptable and the color tones are level. Flesh tones are okay, even though Spacey’s tan looks a bit plastic in some scenes, overall the film is presentable but nothing exciting.

Audio

The audio is decent but ultimately underwhelming English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo lossless soundtrack, the dialogue is grounded in the center channel with ultimately nothing overly impressive with the soundtrack performing, but not overachieving. The film is simply not that type of film in general given to more quiet moments and Michael Small’s score highlights life in the suburb where life is pretty easy going. Optional subtitles are included in English.

Extras

Special Features include an audio commentary by screenwriter Matthew Chapman, a lean commentary by the writer doesn’t really add anything incredibly insightful to the film, a possible must have for fans of the author’s previous work. Eh.

Original theatrical trailer (1:49)

Bonus trailers are included for:

- "Bad Company" (2:07)
- "China Moon" (1:31)
- "Deceived" (1:47)
- "Malice" (1:57)

Packaging

Packaged in a standard Blu-ray case with artwork.

Overall

"Consenting Adults" is a tepid thriller that should have been much better given the talent base. Director Pakula never really ratchets up the suspense in the latter half of the film, but Spacy is great as the psychopath next door.

The Film: C Video: B+ Audio: A Extras: B- Overall: B-

 


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