Reviewed by Dan Lybarger
March 5, 1998
Hush is the sort of movie that makes one hate Alfred Hitchcock for inspiring legions of inferior imitators. Even he might have had difficulty conquering the putrid script penned by director Jonathan Darby and Helen Whitfield.
Gwyneth Paltrow plays Helen, a young and rather dim urbanite. She has a good job and a loving boyfriend named Jackson (tediously portrayed by Johnathan Schaech from That Thing You Do!). When Helen finds herself pregnant (but still boasting a build that would make Kate Moss envious), she and Jackson get married and leave the city for Jackson's boyhood home. It's a gorgeous, if neglected, horse farm away from the crime and fear they now face.
Unfortunately, they have to share it with Jackson's psychotically possessive mother, Martha (Jessica Lange). Martha is the sort of that inspires derisive jokes. She appears amiable, but she can lie and manipulate with Machiavellian glee. Of course, she's not above murdering anyone who threatens to separate her from her son.
The setup is timeworn, but simple. Somehow, Darby still botches it. Every plot twist in the movie is telegraphed. It's almost as if you can set your watch by Martha's next attack. Compounding the agony is the fact that Darby takes suspension of disbelief past the breaking point. In addition to Paltrow's unconvincing pregnancy (she still runs like an antelope even though she's nearly due), seasons change from winter to summer with unnatural abruptness.
Darby also makes poor use of his usually reliable cast. Paltrow can be beguiling when her characters are unlikable (as in Flesh and Bone and Great Expectations). In Hush, she wanders around confused and unable to figure out her character's motivation. Darby isn't sure either. At times she's dense (she has an amusing adventure driving off road to escape the ranch), but in the film's final moments she's a master detective. Lange doesn't have much to work with (her demons are never adequately explained), but she plays Martha with admirable restraint. Even as the music swells with portent, Lange keeps from rolling her eyes or cackling like a witch. Sadly, she's played demented Southern belles before (as in A Streetcar Named Desire or her Oscar-winning role in Blue Sky) and better. Only Nina Foch, as Jackson's cynical grandmother, escapes from this mess with dignity.
The only thrill to be had from this abomination is the chance to see Paltrow's shapely legs and Schaech's imposing pecs. A poster of either is a better investment than this movie (R). Rating: 2.
This page was last updated on 03/06/98.