It's easy to identify the biggest attraction of Killing Me Softly: two fetching actors (Heather Graham, Joseph Fiennes) and lots of nudity--especially in the unrated version. It's harder to choose the bigger liability: the dialogue howlers (as Fiennes binds Graham in ropes, she says, "Sometimes I feel like I don't know you") or the incredibly obvious solution to the big mystery. The story is an unofficial update of Hitchcock's Suspicion: a new wife wonders whether her unbelievably charismatic husband might be a murderer. The Chinese filmmaker Chen Kaige (Farewell My Concubine) turns out to be exactly the wrong director for this overheated slice of l'amour fou in London, but with the hopeless pairing of Graham and Fiennes as the passionate lovers, he didn't have much of a chance. A nicely romantic Patrick Doyle score is the only reason not to hit the Mute button and enjoy the visuals. --Robert Horton
Any film aiming to be Hitchcockian has a lot to live up to: with its blonde heroine, eerie atmosphere and sweeping score, Killing Me Softly sets itself up for a fall even before the plot kicks in. Stylishly filmed by Chen Kaige (the Chinese director's first English feature), this London-set thriller is based on Nicci French's novel about a young American woman, Alice (Heather Graham), and her passionate affair with the mysterious stranger Adam (Joseph Fiennes). Leaving her partner and surrendering herself to Adam's sexual experimentation, Alice only begins to suspect something's not quite right once she's married him and a series of ominous notes arrive through the post. Add to this Adam's mysterious first marriage, an intriguing locked cupboard and enigmatic sister (Natasha McElhone), and Alice begins to look for a way out, in fear of her life.
The fact that Alice sleeps with a stranger at the drop of a hat makes for a shaky premise, but what ensues can only be described as complete nonsense, with the plot twisting its way to a ludicrous climax. Smirking his way through the film, Fiennes is as miscast as Graham, who's clearly there for the soft porn love scenes and not the ones where she's a reporter replete with big spectacles. Graham in the buff is certainly going to attract a few viewers, but for the rest of us Killing Me Softly is just too plain daft to bother with.
On the DVD:Killing Me Softly offers a sparse set of extras, including a featurette that repeats most of the footage seen in the trailer, also included. Short interviews with cast members Graham, Fiennes and McElhone can be found here alongside comments from director Kaige and some footage of the shoot itself, all of which add little to the overall package. --Laura Bushell
A happy marriage and a comfortable job become meaningless diversions to Alice Loudon (Heather Graham) when a seductive stranger (Joseph Fiennes) enters her life. With smoldering good looks and an element of danger surrounding her, this stranger provides Alice with a sexual satisfaction she has never experienced before. When word of a serial killer reaches Alice, she suspects her mysterious lover of holding the knife. This elliptical, steamy thriller is directed by Chen Kaige (FAREWELL MY CONCUBINE) and boasts bold love scenes between the two leads.
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