RELEASED: 1991, Cert. 18
RUNNING TIME: Approx. 102 mins
DIRECTOR: Alan Rudolph
PRODUCERS: John Fiedler & Mark Tarlov
SCREENPLAY: William Reilly & Claude Kerven
MUSIC: Mark Isham
Demi Moore as Cynthia
Glenn Headly as Joyce
Bruce Willis as James
Harvey Keitel as Det. John Woods
Billie Neal as Det. Linda Nealon
FILM ONLY REVIEW
Cynthia, a married woman with two small children, is being interrogated by Det. John Woods and Det. Linda Nealon over the suspicious death of her best friend Joyce's husband, James.
As the interrogation gets underway with Cynthia doing her best to respond to Det. Woods' probing questions which at times become quite aggressive, her answers are shown in flashback format and a very interesting, gripping story begins to unfold.
The viewer is then, as Cynthia opens up to the police, taken back to Joyce's and James' wedding day. Even at the wedding reception, James reveals himself as a volatile, fist-happy abusive coke-head...yet Joyce appears to obey his every command after some mild protestations.
As time goes by, Joyce's and James' relationship continues down a very rocky road. Whenever she confides in her friend Cynthia about James' behaviour, Joyce continually expresses her desire to see him dead and even half-jokingly threatening to kill him herself.
On an evening out, Joyce, James and Cynthia visit a fairground. James is off his head on coke and booze, so the two girls wander around the fair on their own....only to later return to their van and find James lying in the back with his throat cut.
Via the police interrogation of Cynthia over James' death and the flashbacks, events unfold which suggest that maybe things aren't quite how they initially seem.
That loosely outlines the plot, and as always, you must watch it yourself to find out what happens.
I went into watching Mortal Thoughts blind, not having a clue what it would be about, but the title attracted me. I did wonder if it might turn out to be a horror film, but it falls within the mystery/crime-thriller genre.
Right from the very beginning I was hooked. Straight away, the film launches into an extremely well produced and directed tale of murder, intrigue and betrayal which, unlike quite a lot of other movies of this nature, is very easy to follow and not in the slightest bit confusing.
Everything about Mortal Thoughts impressed me, particularly the flawless, first-class acting from every one of the main characters. I don't have a favourite....they were all brilliant....and I was particularly surprised at both Demi Moore's and Bruce Willis' performances, as they are two actors I don't normally hold in especially high esteem. I loved Bruce Willis' powerfully convincing performance as James, the obnoxious wife-abuser, with his scenes of being under the influence of coke and alcohol absolutely spot-on and highly true to life. Demi Moore surprised me simply because I do feel she became rather typecast from her role in Ghost, and such has been very apparent for me in a couple of other films I've seen her in, but in Mortal Thoughts she really comes into her own. The rest of the main cast members also are brilliant in this fascinating, intriguing film.
Mortal Thoughts is a very sleek, slick production where no stone appears to have been left unturned regarding atmosphere, detail, and presenting the storyline in a completely watchable fashion with no confusing bits. The music is very good too, being avant-garde and consisting of various synthesised keyboard and percussion sounds, punctuated with some electronic choral voices. Different parts of the musical score are perfectly set to enhance whatever is happening on screen at the time, adding to an already tense atmosphere.
Although Mortal Thoughts is, I suppose, a mystery of sorts, it isn't of a wispy nature as it does have strong elements of also being a crime thriller. There is quite a lot of swearing here and there in the first-class dialogue, but it isn't inappropriate or done just for the sake of having a bit of Anglo-Saxon peppering the proceedings. The swearing is perfectly well placed, coming across as one-hundred percent natural.
I'm so very tempted to reveal more of the storyline, but of course that would encroach the land of spoiler territory, so I shall just have to content myself with saying that I found Mortal Thoughts to be a really gripping, interesting, thoughtful and realistic film which from all aspects, is very professionally put together and I loved every minute of it.
I am trying to find something negative to say about Mortal Thoughts, but am unable to. The only thing I would home in on, and it is in no way a criticism, is that it probably is a 'watch once only' film because once the mystery is solved and you know the ending, that's it and although the acting/direction/production is first-class, such doesn't pave the way for a second viewing because of the nature of the storyline.
My final words : Watch it!
At the time of writing, Mortal Thoughts can be purchased on Amazon as follows:-
New: from £19.98 to £34.99
Used: from £2.09 to £7.99
Collectible: Only one copy currently available @ £6.99
A delivery charge of £1.26 should be added to the above figures.
Thanks for reading!
~~ Also published on Ciao under my CelticSoulSister user name ~~
Mortal Thoughts was released in 1991 and starred Demi Moore as Cynthia, Glenne Headly as Joyce (whatever happened to Glenne Headly?), Bruce Willis as James, Harvey Keitel as Detective Woods and John Pankow as Arthur. The film was directed by Alan Rudolph, produced by John Fiedler and jointly written by William Reilly and Claude Kerven. Rated an 18 certificate the film runs for just over 100 minutes.
The film was filmed mostly on location in New Jersey and New York, USA.
Cynthia is married to Arthur Kellogg and they have a couple of kids. Joyce is her best friend and is married to James Urbanski. The two women have been best of friends since childhood and run a beauty shop together. The film starts off with Cynthia talking to the police about the murder of James. Joyce had a very volatile relationship with the abusive, drug-taking and hard-drinking James and had threatened to kill him on numerous occasions even considering putting rat poison in the sugar bowl at one stage but backing down at the last minute.
Cynthia, Joyce and James visit a fun fair and later he is found dead - cue the police investigation. In a series of flashbacks Cynthia tells the police how Joyce killed James and how she helped her pal dispose of the body and tales of how later more tragic events unfold. As the story progresses you see the friendship between Joyce and Cynthia disintegrate and trust being broken as Cynthia's evidence twists the knife deeper and deeper into her best friend's back.
I had seen Mortal Thoughts several times back in the early 90s when it was released and quite enjoyed it so was quite happy to watch it again quite recently. Funnily enough what had previously seemed a really enjoyable and suspenseful film now seemed quite dated, probably due to the hairstyles sported by the two leading ladies.
Demi Moore sports a very big bushy 80s hairstyle throughout the film (I can imagine she'd cringe if she saw herself now). Even back then she was a powerful actress and extremely convincing as the woman who is trying to convince the police of her own innocence and partially unwilling participation in a tragic series of events. You end up feeling rather sorry for her character right up till the end of the film and almost feel that she was quite justified in her actions. Her character on the one hand tells her best friend to stick to their joint story that they don't know what happened to James, but on the other hand she's telling the police that her friend did indeed kill her husband.
Glenne Headly was almost over the top in her acting in this film but I feel the character was written that way. She's very verbose and is quick to make decisions without thinking them through, or so we're led to believe. As the story is mostly told by Moore we see scenes of Headly at home with her in-laws acting out the part of a grieving widow and sneaking off with Moore to ensure they keep their stories straight. The scenes with the in-laws are noisy and seemingly typical of working class loud mouthed Americans.
Bruce Willis (Demi Moore's husband at the time this film was made) was brilliant as the verbally and physically abusive husband who gets killed off quite violently. I've never seen him in such a negative role before or since this film and surprisingly enough he really pulled it off really well. He makes the character so intensely loathsome that you almost feel like taking a hatchet to him yourself (note: I said "almost" - I'm not condoning murder)!
Harvey Keitel was as usual quite adept in his role of serious detective on a mission to find out the truth at any cost. I have a lot of respect for Keitel as an actor and his role in this film did not change my mind. He's believable and enigmatic at the same time, even somewhat avuncular - you see him as someone you'd want to open up to and eventually the truth does indeed come out.
John Pankow is not someone I'd seen before this film (nor do I recall seeing him since) and his role was not central enough for me to comment any more than he was passable in his role as a concerned husband who doesn't want his wife mixing with the murderous Joyce.
The film starts and ends with home movie footage of two young girls which one can only assume is of the two leads in their childhood just to prove how long they've been friends. The end of the film clears up any misconception about how the murder of Willis' character really took place although I felt there were some loose ends which were not tied up neatly enough for my mind. The reason for the second murder is not cleared up at the end which left me feeling cheated somehow! I can't really discuss the loose ends to which I refer as they would give away a major part of the plot and that's tantamount to review suicide!
WHERE TO GET IT
You can get hold of the DVD of this film on Amazon for £4.97 or from sendit.com for £4.99 or try renting from your usual DVD rental source.
Mortal Thoughts could be quite easily described as a film noir with a slight feminist slant; it's about women fighting back against abuse and then fighting for survival to avoid being caught. Not that I'm advocating murder under any circumstances - I think the message of the film seems to be that you will always get caught if you commit such a heinous crime no matter how clever you think you are.
The film is an 18 certificate and rightly so; there's a lot of bad language and scenes of violence, especially scenes of the first murder (have I given away too much by saying "first murder"?) where there's quite a lot of blood spilt!
Overall I'd rate Mortal Thoughts a 6 out of 10, although if I'd reviewed it 10 years ago I might have rated it higher, as I said earlier in the review, it seems quite dated now.
Thanks for reading.
Demi Moore stars in this suspenseful, atmospheric thriller as Cynthia, a middle class New Jersey woman who gets involved in murder. Harvey Keitel plays a detective who grills Cynthia for a videotaped confession and the bulk of the movie progresses in a series of flashbacks that accompany Cynthia's testimony. Bruce Willis plays James Urbanski, the violent, drug-addict husband of Cynthia's friend Joyce (Glenne Headly) who is murdered one fateful evening at a nearby Feast of San Gennarro festival. Lots of Jersey Italian-style yelling and screaming goes on in the aftermath, with goodfella Frank Vincent in the cast, along with Karen Shallo, Crystal Field, and John Pankow as Cynthia's sullen real estate agent husband. There's also betrayals, threats, and a twist ending. Director Alan Rudolph captures the local New Jersey flavor beautifully and imbues the proceedings with depth via rich photography and use of slow motion and quick cuts. Willis is particulalry good, in a disturbing sort of way, in this, his first collaboration with future ex-wife Moore.