James Foley (After Dark, My Sweet, Glengarry Glen Ross) is one of the best studio directors around, and even if you feel ambivalent about the subgenre he adopts here (working as uncredited cowriter with Christpher Crowe), you can’t deny that he knows how to deliver the goods. A 16-year-old girl in Seattle (Reese Witherspoon) falls for a young man (Mark Wahlberg) with a troubled background who eventually becomes obsessed with her. Complicating the issue at least momentarily are the feelings of her own father (William Petersen) about her budding sexuality. If you’re only looking for brutal jolts you’ll probably get impatient; the buildup is at least as gradual as in Hitchcock’s The Birds, and Foley has a fine sense of shading in depicting a slightly dysfunctional family. The problem with this subgenre is the way it has to demonize and dehumanize its villains in order to produce the desired effect, which brutalizes the spectator along with the story and characters. If you can accept this limitation, this is a very efficient piece of machinery. With Alyssa Milano and Amy Brenneman. (JR)

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