(director: Benoit Delhomme; screenwriter: Sarah Conradt-Kroehler, based on a novel by Barbara Abel and the film Duelles directed by Olivier Masset-Depasse; cinematographer: Benoit Delhomme; editor: Juliette Welfling; music: Anne Nikitin; cast: Anne Hathaway (Celine), Jessica Chastain (Alice), Eamon Patrick O’Connor (Theo), Anders Danielsen Lie (Simon), Josh Charles (Darren), Baylen D. Bielitz (Max), Caroline Lagerfelt (Jean); Runtime: 94; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Jacques-Henri Bronckart, Kelly Carmichael, Jessica Chastain, Paul Nelson; Neon; 2024)

“To a fault, it pays homage to a Hitchcockian-style suspense thriller.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A humorless and heavy-handed maternal psycho-drama set in the unnamed American suburbs in the 1960s. It’s the disappointing directorial debut of the esteemed French cinematographer-turned-director Benoit Delhomme. The screenplay
is by writer Sarah Conradt-Kroehler. It’s a remake of the 2012 French-language thriller “Behind the Hate” and of the 2018 Belgian film, “Duelles” (directed by Olivier Masset-Depasse). It’s based on a novel by Barbara Abel. To a fault, it pays homage to a Hitchcockian-style suspense thriller. Only its photography remains splendid.

The wealthy, well-groomed and well-mannered housewives, Celine (Anne Hathaway), in Jackie Kennedy dress, and Alice (Jessica Chastain) in a Kim Novak hair-do from Vertigo, are best friends and next door neighbors. Each has a commuter husband (Celine’s pharmaceutical salesman hubby is played by Josh Charles, Alice’s dull hubby is played by the newspaperman Anders Danielsen Lie), and each has a 9-year-old son – Celine’s son is Max (Baylen D. Bielitz) and Alice’s son is Theo (Patrick O’Connor). Also each lady is filled with grief from the past–with Alice’s being mental health issues, while Celine is the more cheerful of the two.

But their friendship will be destroyed by tragedy over a freak accident of Max falling to his death from the balcony of his bedroom and Celice blaming it on Alice.

The well-costumed ladies kvetch about everything for the first two acts and in the third act things come together, as Celine tries to acclimate to society over her loss and Alice suffers from guilt pangs over trying to give her boring hubby and son a picture-perfect life.

The story is too silly to be believed and too languid to be entertaining. It could have used a Groucho-like character to blow some cigar smoke into the faces of the snooty friends.

REVIEWED ON 4/16/2024  GRADE: C+