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DEEP END, THE(director/writer: David Siegel & Scott McGehee; screenwriter: based on Elizabeth Sanxay Holding’s novel “The Blank Wall”; cinematographer: Giles Nuttgens; editor: Lauren Zuckerman; cast: Tilda Swinton (Margaret Hall), Goran Visnjic (Alek Spera), Jonathan Tucker (Beau Hall), Peter Donat (Jack Hall), Josh Lucas (Darby Reese), Raymond J. Barry (Carlie Nagel), Jordon Dorrance (Dylan Hall), Tamara Hope (Paige Hall); Runtime: 99; Fox Searchlight Pictures; 2001)
“Swinton as the perfect mom is convincing…”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

If you’ve seen Max Ophüls’ Reckless Moment (49), you’ve seen this film. It’s the same story but updated to fit modern times. My take on remakes is–if it was a great film, as the older noir film was, why make another! But, at least, this version is as good. Yet it has nothing new to add; what this colorized version does differently to suit modern times is have ‘supermom,’ the outstanding British actress Tilda Swinton, be concerned with saving her family’s reputation and holding it together after being blackmailed because of her teenage son’s secret gay fling with a 30-year-old sleaze, who owns a gay bar in Reno called The Deep End. In the older version, it was the teenage girl having an affair with a sleazy older guy in LA that concerned Joan Bennett. Both matriarchs give Oscar quality performances, in a film that is based on the novel by Elizabeth Sanxay Holding called “The Blank Wall” and directed by the team who did Suture–David Siegel & Scott McGehee.

Margaret Hall (Swinton) is all-family, her Navy officer hubby is all-Navy, as he distances himself from family affairs by being almost unreachable in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean on a carrier while she tries to ply her musically inclined Lake Tahoe spoiled rotten son to enroll in a good college on the East Coast and stay away from a parasitic Reno sybaritic bar owner who exudes sex, larceny and sleaze, Darby Reese (Josh Lucas).

Darby is tempted byMaggie’s offer of $5,000 to split from Beau, but when the lascivious Darby comes sneaking in on his younger lover’s house late at night they get into a little tiff down by the waterfront area and Darby is accidentally killed. The spoiled young man doesn’t even realize what he’s done; but, mom cleans up the mess early in the AM by dumping his body, with an anchor stuck in it, out in the lake.

The blackmail comes into play when Alek Spera (Visnjic) is in the James Mason role. He is the young career hood who falls for Swinton’s motherhood and can’t go through with the callous scheme with his ruthless partner Nagel of getting $50,000 from her to prevent him from going to the police with a sex videotape of her son and Darby humping their tails off, which will likely implicate him in the murder.

Mom proves she will do anything for her family, as she frantically tries to raise the money she doesn’t have. Despite the crisis she doesn’t miss a beat taking care of the family who are always around her– she takes care of her heart attack victim elderly father-in-law (Donat), attends her ballet dancing daughter Paige’s school performance and nurtures her youngest son Dylan, while also doing anything possible to protect Beau from misfortune–plus doing all the housework. This perfect mom moves Alek greatly, enough so he will give up his life for some respect from the middle-class icon of family values. It didn’t convince me in the older version, nor does it in the newer; but Swinton as the perfect mom is convincing, as we see the determination and pain in her face as it is drawn tight in gaunt looks out at the world that has turned suddenly hostile for her. This suburban soccer mom and SUV-driver is taking on the representatives of the world she has escaped from–the city world of lowbrow crime figures, and she’s willing to go to the mat for her unaware family to save their reputation. It’s a moving but restraint performance and gives the art-house thriller some depth.

REVIEWED ON 10/7/2001 GRADE: B +

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”