This is the movie equivalent of a juicy beach book, an old-fashioned guilty pleasure chick flick.
The plot is “Sliding Doors” crossed with the fairy tale of the dancing princesses with a touch of “Truly Madly Deeply.” Demi Moore plays a woman with two lives: Marty, a successful New York career woman and Marie, an American widow living in the French countryside with her two daughters. Every night, when Marty goes to sleep, she dreams of Maria’s life in France, and when Marie goes to sleep, she becomes Marty in New York. Both wonder which is real, and each is afraid to find out.
The two lives echo each other, and each seems to provide something missing in the other. But one thing is missing in both – love. Marty meets Aaron (William Fitchner) and Marie meets William (Stellan Skarsgård).
Both relationships begin with conflict. Marty confronts Aaron for capitulating to a client’s request to settle a lot of money on an unfaithful spouse and Marie has given a bad review to William’s book. Both men are completely captivated by the elusive woman/women. And both courtships are rapturously romantic – this movie has two of the all-time great movie boyfriends.
At first, the two storylines provide counterpoint. One relationship becomes physically intimate. The other becomes emotionally intimate because she tells him of her double life. Then both relationships deepen and the two lives begin to provide some resolution for one another. Items from one life begin turning up in the other. She begins to understand that she can take what she needs from her dreams and make it work in real life.
It is very schmaltzy. But I found myself beguiled by its unabashed romanticism. There are some nice subtle touches – the clusters of hats, Marty’s relationship with her therapist, Marie’s relationships with her daughters and her confidant – and the resolution has some psychological validity, at least in movie terms.
Parents should know that the movie has sexual references and situations (frank but not graphic), some strong language, and smoking and drinking.
Families who see the movie will want to talk about the way that people consciously and subconsciously work through unresolved issues, and the way that opening oneself up to being known by someone else can seem scary. If your real-life self had a dream life, what would it be?
Families who enjoy this movie will like “Truly Madly Deeply” and a Bette Davis oldie, “A Stolen Life.”