Consenting Adults (1992) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

I have to give the screenwriter of this film a reluctant tip of the cap for having more chutzpah than just about anyone else on the planet. He wrote a script which has one fatal flaw, one enormous gaping loophole in its logic. He was not only aware of the question that needed to be asked, but he actually had one of the characters dare to ask the correct question right within the film's dialogue - and failed to answer it!

Now that takes one giant set of cojones.

In a nutshell, the basic plot is this. A con man takes out an insurance policy on his wife, talks his neighbor into swapping wives one night, but does not go to the neighbor's wife. He waits until the neighbor has slept with his own wife, then murders her with a weapon which he has meticulously linked to the neighbor. The patsy goes to the slammer, the con man gets the dough. The con man even moves in with the patsy's wife.

Given the other circumstances in the film, which are too detailed to enumerate, it would have been a perfect crime except for one thing. He actually hired a hooker to impersonate his wife that night, then killed the hooker. The real wife, who is not in on the murder, but is happy to take a pay-off, has been shipped out of town and given a new start in a singing career. Of course, that is a loose end which the killer must eventually tie up. It is in the process of killing the real wife, who represents living evidence of the patsy's innocence, that the con man is betrayed.

Now the really big question that you should be asking, and that an insurance investigator actually asks in the movie, is this, "given his willingness to murder his wife later, why didn't he just kill the real wife in the first place? What was the point of the hooker?"

I guess the real answer is this: if he had done it that way, he would have been successful, the patsy would have gone to jail forever, and there would have been no movie.

And that might have been a good thing, now that I think about it.

Leaving the wife alive as a professional singer was an absolutely ludicrous plot twist. Her records were on the radio, so the patsy recognized her voice, and tracked her down. But even if that had not happened, how long can someone who is supposed to be dead live on in such a public business as the entertainment industry? (Cher, of course, being an exception.) She wore a red wig - and that was supposed to keep people from noticing? Come on. She was a singer, and she still had the same voice, and sang the same songs! In addition, she was portrayed in the script as a very nice person. How long would she let the situation go without coming forward, once she realized that her beloved neighbor was going to get the electric chair for her murder?

In addition to that gigantic flaw in the script, there were lots of others almost as irritating:

  • The patsy was supposed to be in jail for bludgeoning his beloved neighbor to death in a first degree murder. Therefore, as an obvious homicidal maniac, he was released on bail and allowed to go back to his house and his neighborhood. Remind me to avoid South Carolina, the populace of which must be teeming with bailed criminals who were originally arrested for homicidal rage.

  • The patsy was in such a desperate financial situation that he thought his $25,000 debt was a hole so deep that he could never climb out of it. Then, after he was arrested, his wife asked for a divorce. Financial disaster, right? Yet he was able to make bail on his murder rap and pay a private attorney (tens of thousands of dollars in a case like this).

  • The police never knew who the victim really was. Again, here's a two word tip for you criminal youngsters - South Carolina. Not only do they have easy bail in that State, but the police really don't make any effort to find out the identity of a victim in a homicide case. If you just say, "that's my wife", then arrange to have her cremated, you're home free on the ol' life insurance scam.

  • One more matter on the bail. I don't know the rules, but after the patsy was released on bail, he crossed the state line between South Carolina and Georgia, and he flew out of the state. Is that allowed? Can accused criminals awaiting trial for a brutal murder just go wherever they want to?

  • The patsy resorts to the ol' "the police have closed my case, so I'll have to get out of prison and solve the crime myself" trick.

  • The patsy's wife was NOT in on the scam, yet as soon as the neighbor's wife turned up dead, she abandoned her husband of fourteen years, and took her daughter to go live with the con man. Because of those facts, I assumed that she must have been in on the scam. Wouldn't you? Yet the patsy never made that assumption! He just accepted at face value that the wife dumped him without knowing whether he was guilty. Furthermore, there was no history which caused the wife to doubt her husband's word, and he proclaimed his innocence. If she had even the slightest inkling that he was telling the truth, she therefore moved in with only other guy who might have committed the murder! Yet the patsy assumed that illogical scenario was true rather than making the logical assumption that she was in on the scam. How can this be explained? Only one way that I know of. He read the script, and knew she was innocent.

  • Our final point involves Physics, but it's easy. It comes in the form of an illustration. In the picture below, Kevin Spacey (as the con man) has been hit from behind by a baseball bat. He was standing, just about to shoot Kevin Kline. The woman who hit him entered through the door (far left, near the pillar), hit him, then dropped the bat, then walked back out the door with Kline. Nothing has been moved. You can see where the bat is. Given those facts, look at the photograph below and tell me how his body got in that position. Show all your work in your blue book.

I guess I really crabbed about this film a lot, and that is somewhat misleading.

Consenting Adults is no masterpiece, but if you turn your brain off and just enjoy it, it is sort of fun from time to time. The director was Alan Pakula (Sophie's Choice, All The President's Men). Kevin Spacey and Kevin Kline are fairly effective in the leads, and Rebecca Miller is gorgeous.


Rebecca Miller showed her buns - coming out of a bath, but obviously wearing a thong. There was also a brief look at her breasts from the side.

Melissa Moore (Michelle Moore) -the murdered woman - showed her buns, and appeared in a very dark frontal.

DVD info from Amazon

  • no features

  • widescreen anamorphic 1.85

Rebecca no longer acts, by the way. She quit nearly ten years ago. The daughter of playwright Arthur Miller, she is now a writer and director. (Personal Velocity, a Sundance winner, is her most noteworthy project.) She is also married to Daniel Day-Lewis, which means that her low budget independent films can always draw on a great cast of various thespian luminaries that other indy filmmakers do not have access to. The esteemed Mr. Day-Lewis himself will appear in Rebecca's next film, Rose and the Snake.

The Critics Vote ...

The People Vote ...

  • Domestic gross: $22 million
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this is a C- (both reviewers). Scoop says, "It is a decent watch if you let it flow over you, but do NOT think about it too much, or it will fall apart like a cheap suit". Tuna liked it a bit better, saying, "I found the plot entertaining enough, and the acting good. I found this a watchable story, reasonably well photographed."

Return to the Movie House home page