You know, there were a lot of movies during the early 90’s that seemed to feature the same theme, that of a female role playing the part of a sociopath/psychopath. Rebecca De Mornay played a role in today’s movie. Man, whatever happened to her. She was in a bunch of movies in the 80’s and early 90’s then seemed to drop off the major motion picture radar. I’m not saying that she stopped acting altogether, just that she hasn’t starred in big pictures, outside of the occasional gust spot. But I’m getting sidetracked so let’s get on with today’s movie, The Hand That Rocks The Cradle.
The plot: When Claire Bartel is molested by her doctor, Dr. Mott, during a routine pregnancy checkup, she files a report with the medical board which causes several other women to come forward and sue the doctor for the same reason. Dr. Mott commits suicide and the stress of his death, plus the legal matters causes his pregnant wife to go into early labor and she loses her baby. Six months later, Claire has given birth to a boy named Joey and is looking for a nanny to help look after the kid and Mrs. Potts, under the alias Peyton Flanders, convinces the Bartel’s to hire her. During her time as the nanny, Peyton begins sabotaging Claire’s position in the family. She begins breastfeeding Joey with her own milk so that Joey starts refusing Claire’s milk and has Claire’s daughter Emma start keeping secrets from her mom. She also begins to plant ideas that Claire’s husband, Michael, is having an affair with their friend Marlene, who happens to be an old girlfriend of Michael’s. When Solomon, an intellectual disabled handyman that has been working for the Bartels, catches Peyton breastfeeding Joey, Peyton plants some of Emma’s underwear in Solomon’s toolbox to make it seem like he molested Emma and in spite of Emma’s protests to the contrary, Solomon is fired and sent back to the retirement home he came from. Marlene is going over some listings for homes to sell and recognizes some wind chimes in a picture of Dr. Mott’s house as similar to ones that Peyton gave Claire and learns the truth about who Peyton is and tries to warn Claire but Claire uses a trap that was intended for Claire to kill Marlene. When Claire sees the body, she begins to have an asthma attack but Peyton has emptied all of Claire’s inhalers so Claire winds up in the hospital. While Claire is in the hospital, Peyton tries seducing Michael but he rejects her. Claire gets out of the hospital and finds out the truth about Peyton. She returns home and confronts Peyton, while telling Michael who Peyton really is, and they kick Peyton out of their house. Peyton breaks back into the house and attacks Michael, breaking his legs. before hunting down Claire and the kids. When Emma sees Peyton hit her mom, she tricks Peyton into going in the nursery and locks her in before grabbing Joey and hiding. Peyton breaks out of the nursery and, hearing Joey’s cries in the attic, heads up there to discover Solomon, who had been watching out for the family, is helping the kids to escape. Claire confronts Peyton but appears to suffer from another asthma attack causing Peyton to taunt her. When Peyton goes after Joey, Claire, who had been faking the attack, attacks Peyton and pushes her out the window where she winds up being impaled on the fence below.
The Hand That Rocks The Cradle was well received by the critics, earning a 63% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Many of the critics praised both Rebecca De Mornay’s performance and the directors story telling ability. However the detractors felt that some of the themes used in the movie, particularly the child abuse and kidnapping, were a little too exploitive. It came in #1 for 4 straight weeks in the box office and made over $88 million in the domestic box office.
Not my usual movie to watch but this is definitely a good thriller. Rebecca De Mornay was great in her role, switching from caring nanny to vicious attacker in the blink of an eye. I personally liked Ernie Hudson’s character of Solomon and thought he did a great job with that. The buildup to the end was very slow but well thought out although I did feel the final face-off was a little anti-climactic. A couple of other scenes just felt a little weird in how there were done, such as the police not getting involved when they thought Solomon molested Emma. Aside from that, this is a good thriller to watch.
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5