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Enough

(Michael Apted, USA, 2002)


 


Here is a film worth defending. Judging from the uneasy response of the crowd at the session I attended, pitched somewhere between titillation, derision and amazement, it clearly hits a raw nerve. Its strange mixture of glossy Hollywood unreality and social provocation marks it is a pop culture event of significance.

Enough takes us back about a decade to the tropes and trials of the intimacy thriller, action-based films in which the most sinister menace is not external but found far too close too home. The family doctor, cop, lawyer or psychoanalyst; the babysitter, secretary or best friend; and ultimately the main character's parents, children or spouse take the evil roles in these movies.

Slim (Jennifer Lopez) falls for a charming guy, Mitch (Billy Campbell), and builds the perfect home and family. Of course, it is all an illusion. Mitch turns out to be a philanderer and an abuser. Worse still, he is psychotically possessive of his wife and small daughter, Grace (Tessa Allen), and vows to track them down wherever they flee.

Gifted writer Nicholas Kazan is well suited to this terrain, having scripted Reversal of Fortune (1990) and directed his own marriage-gone-wrong thriller, Dream Lover (1994). He uses chapter titles in early scenes to distance us from the seeming trashiness of this material, all the while bringing out its greater resonances.

Slim is caught in a symbolic bind worthy of the Gothic heroines of old. As her friend Ginny (Juliette Lewis) tells her, the modern girl wants a "real man" full of testosterone, but baulks when this man shows his true, patriarchal colours. What's the alternative? Slim's ex-beau (Dan Futterman) is cute, helpful and sensitive. But does he turn her on?

This is only the first of many intriguing and often wildly politically incorrect questions that the film raises. The core of the story is Slim's transformation from a passive weakling into a sleek, trained fighter.

By the time we reach the key line of dialogue, "You have a divine, animal right to protect your own life and the life of your offspring", the film is ready to plunge headlong into that disquietingly lawless realm beloved of the best intimacy thrillers.

Enough marks the finest hour of director Michael Apted, who has dabbled in virtually every fictional genre as well as documentary. Abandoning his trademark realism, he embraces the zany leaps and excesses of this project with a real élan. The tense scenes of hiding and pursuit across several states of America are executed with enormous flair, and the finale is riveting.

Lopez, despite the standard Hollywood silliness of having everyone on screen call her "plain looking", exudes divine, animal righteousness. Kazan and Apted give her many wonderful moments, from a discussion of Finnegan's Wake in a diner to mystical sessions with an imposing martial arts trainer.

But none of these details are as great as the tiny, throwaway moment in the coda when a word from a stranger suddenly makes Slim believe that her life could amount to more than life-long imprisonment in a man-made hell.

MORE Apted: Coal Miner's Daughter, Continental Divide, Critical Condition, Extreme Measures, Incident at Oglala, Nell, 35 Up

© Adrian Martin October 2002


Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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