Retro Film Review: Head Above Water (1996)

in #aaalast month (edited)


In 1990s French cinema proved to be godsend to uninspired Hollywood screenwriters. It seemed that any marginally successful French comedy was about to have its Hollywood remake. But sometimes Hollywood tried to fish new material in the other areas of Europe. One such example was 1993 Norwegian comedy Hodet over vannet, remade in 1996 by American director Jim Wilson.

Protagonist of the film is Nathalie (played by Cameron Diaz), former drug addict who married George (played by Harvey Keitel), the judge who had given her suspended sentence. The couple is to spend second honeymoon on the island near coast of Maine. Their only company is Lance (played by Craig Sheffer), artist and Natalie's childhood friend who was for years secretly in love with her. When George and Lance go fishing, Natalie is going to face her past in the form of Kent (played by Billy Zane), her ex boyfriend who still abuses alcohol and drugs. Kent makes unannounced visit to the island and appears naked and dead in Nathalie's bed next morning. Nathalie panics and decides to hide his body, which only leads to more complications.

Although it was made in the middle of Tarantino craze, this black comedy owes less to Pulp Fiction and more to classic black comedies like Trouble with Harry and classic thrillers like Dead Calm. Unfortunately, idea to combine straight thriller with dark humour doesn't always work and the parody at times is more unintentional than intentional. The acting is, however, very good, just like Richard Bowen's cinematography. The most important thing about Head Above Water is its short running time, which prevent audience from being bored or noticing too many of the film's flaws. The general impression is of a film that is entertaining enough to be recommended even to those viewers who don't care about such things as Cameron Diaz spending most of the film in bathing suit.

RATING: 5/10 (++)

(Note: The text in its original form was posted in Usenet newsgroup on January 21st 2004)

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