What Lies Beneath is a ghost story for adults. It stars Michelle Pfeiffer and Harrison Ford. It is Robert Zemeckis’ latest big-budget blockbuster. It is summer, and you have two hours worth of free time burning a hole in your pocket. This is as good a way as any to spend those hours. Now, I’m no expert on Michelle Pfeiffer’s personal life, so I don’t know if she’s had any experience as an anorexic, Valium-popping trophy wife who plays a lot of solitaire and attends garden club meetings. But, surprisingly, her performance in What Lies Beneath is an effortless tour de force of suburban ennui. Kudos as well to Harrison Ford, who plays a smarmy college professor with a wicked violent streak — his first turn since 1974 as a bona fide villain (in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation). The film’s plot (which should remain a secret) involves the unraveling of the relationship between the aforementioned outwardly perfect couple. She becomes obsessed with, first, the neighbor couple’s volatile relationship (suspecting some incident of foul play between them) — and then, eventually, with a gnawing suspicion that she is being stalked. He (despite protestations to the contrary) may well know if and why she is being stalked, not to mention by what/whom. The production notes for What Lies Beneath boast that this movie is “perhaps the kind of film Alfred Hitchcock would have done in his day.” Hitchcock created art, but offered it as entertainment, whereas director Robert Zemeckis has mastered the art of creating entertainment. Hitchcock never produced the kind of Popcornflick Summerfare that is Zemeckis’ trademark. What Lies Beneath is no exception to the Zemeckis canon. Whether or not Zemeckis would like to admit it, this movie is a grand excuse to sit in a dark, air-conditioned room for over two hours. The external shots of a gray, New England autumn are positively soothing, as are the movie’s innumerable scenes involving water — bathtubs, lakes, rain. It’s very easy to forget the plot and enjoy the scenery. Don’t expect a Hitchcockian juggernaut like Rear Window or a Freudian/Jungian head trip like The Shining. The only thing this film means to kill is your time, so let it.
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