Just when you think Edna O'Brien's tale "Mrs. Reinhardt" is logically falling into place and predictable, the great writer pulls a fast one or two, and it's time to reconsider. This vehicle on the BBC is required viewing for Helen Mirren fans.
With many a flashback and jump back & forth in time, Helen sets out in her car for a road movie format, fleeing her cheating husband Ralph Bates to start on a new, unplanned life. Bates' full beard (that disappears) and Helen's changing hair styles make the different time frames easy to juggle.
Instead of being bound in some British studio, the action unfolds on striking locations in both the French and UK countryside, with Helen's title character holing up in a luxury hotel run by the charming and idiosyncratic Jean Rougerie. She's brought with her a priceless necklace (an heirloom from Bates' family which he strenously opposed her making off with) and Edna's script from her short story places so much emphasis on it that the viewer (myself obviously included) can be forgiven being misled by its importance to the plot.
Brad Davis, fresh off his vast (if fleeting) international success starring in Alan Parker's "Midnight Express" pops up as a layabout Helen encounters on the Brittany shore, and the audience is way ahead of her in smoking out his bad intentions. Mrs. Reinhardt has to learn the hard way not to fall for the first good-looking, agressive gigolo who comes along, but the result of their ill-fated affair is not exactly what we expect.
Fine acting by all the principals make for an engrossing perhaps cautionary tale that for me ranks up there with O'Brien's far more famous classics of modern British cinema. Genre veteran Piers Haggard directs very well, and this movie for television makes for an intriguing contrast with his campy horror anti-classic "Venom" (with its dream cast) made the same year with Piers a last-minute substitute for director Tobe Hooper, who could not cope with such feisty actors as Klaus Kinski.
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