Universal Pictures has soft-pedaled this psychological thriller in the Fatal Attraction-Sleeping With the Enemy mold by holding the only local press screening in Skokie, but I’m not sure why we’re expected to dislike it. James Foley (After Dark, My Sweet, Glengarry Glen Ross), working as uncredited cowriter with Christopher Crowe, is one of the best studio directors around; even if you feel ambivalent about the subgenre he adopts here, as I do, 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 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 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. (Evanston, Hyde Park, Ford City, Bricktown Square, Burnham Plaza, Golf Glen, Lincoln Village, Water Tower)

–Jonathan Rosenbaum

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