Viggo Mortensen
Deception - 1993

It's a shame how US audiences - perhaps because we are many ways more "sensitive" than audiences in some other parts of the world - sometimes get watered down versions of movies. Deception is the US release of the movie "Ruby Cairo" starring Andie MacDowell, Liam Neeson, and Viggo Mortensen. Normally I try not to give away any plot in my review, but in this case pretty much every review (and every box) of this DVD gives away half the story, so I'll at least go with that.

Andie plays Bessie Faro, a "regular housewife" who is struggling to raise 3 kids in a run down town. Her husband, Johnny, is a wastrel. She knew this from the beginning - she knew he gambled, he spent money like water, and he was undependable. She says several times in voice-overs that she was along for the ride and didn't mind that there was little future for them or their kids. It's not that she's unintelligent - she just doesn't have a sense of responsibility. Since Johnny has even less, it's not a wild stretch that they ended up together.

Unfortunately for her, Johnny runs a small plane company and his plane crashes in Mexico. She goes down to see the crash and to bury him. She realizes that he left behind STACKS of bills, and she even comments that maybe at this point she should just drown the kids and shoot herself. She doesn't say this with a lot of emotion, either. I understand of course that she's in grief for her husband, but she doesn't show much grief either. My boyfriend, who watched this with me, commented several times that she really didn't seem like a widow who had cared much for her husband.

Bessie discovers in Mexico that her husband has a goodly amount of money hidden away in the bank there - and finds the key to tracking down his other accounts. I realize this is a fun "visit exotic locations around the world" plot device - but it makes NO sense. Why would someone personally fly from country to country to close down accounts? If she really got a nice windfall from the first bank, couldn't she just hire a lawyer to do that for her remotely? They could have played it many ways - had her try that and get told she must go in person for "country legal reasons" - or maybe she could say in a voiceover that she "felt like it was saying goodby to her husband, to walk in his footsteps". Instead they make it seem like this is the normal way that people do banking.

Most of the visits are simply "photo shoots" where you barely get a sense of the country she is in. Finally, though, in Greece she runs into a teller who inexplicably violates a few privacy rules to move the plot along, and she makes a pretty inane decision to hop on a cargo ship instead of flying ahead to meet it. There are a few more very questionable plot developments further ahead, but I won't spoil that part here.

Mixed in with this story is Liam, playing a "do gooder" Doctor who is trying to feed the world - or is he? He seems pretty mixed up with the path she's taking, and his affections towards Bessie seem rather sudden and at times forced. Is he making a play to gain her confidence?

I really did want to love this movie, because I love the "on the trail" style movies, and I love movies with twists and counter-twists. It sounds odd, but the plot of this one was just too "simple". The outcome was fairly obvious early on, and I kept waiting for something new to spring out. While you can see the Bessie-Johnny attraction with them both being so careless, it also made it hard to really relate to her. She was going to abandon her kids? She took off on them for weeks to travel the world, without much regard for her own safety? Her lack of knowledge about how to be safe in some of the areas she visited was pretty staggering, especially for someone who apparently had lived in not-great locations. There seems to be little motive at all for Johnny's abandonment of his family. Did he ever love her? Why did he take off like that? Does he really want her back?

It was a great basis for a story - and if the characters had been developed more fully, I really would have loved it. They were just painted too shallowly, though. Viggo and Liam both try to infuse their characters with depth, but with the dialogue they had to say, they're only cardboard cutouts of an "Irish Doctor" and a "Only Cares About Himself Scumbag". In between them, Andie is going for the every day woman caught in a spiralling nightmare, but she really doesn't even seem to care what's happening.

A good rental for a rainy day, but not one I'd really watch repeatedly for its depth of character.

Viggo Mortensen

Viggo Mortensen

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