Film review: Deceived

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 1 1991 12:00 a.m. MDT

Goldie Hawn and director Damian Harris nearly save the heavily plotted but vastly illogical "Deceived" from self-destructing. In the end, however, whether or not you will enjoy this film depends largely on your tolerance level for convoluted thrillers, along with your fondness for Hawn.

Hawn's straight-forward performance has none of the typically giggly characteristics with which we associate her (save the occasional preening, a trait that seems to become more pronounced as she gets older). What's more, there is virtually no comedy to fall back on.

But she is very good playing a happily married, independent artist who is forced to become a tough, take-charge woman when her life is turned upside-down.

"Deceived" is a hard film to describe without giving away too many plot points, as the screenplay by Mary Agnes Donoghue ("Beaches," the upcoming "Paradise") is full of elements that seem like they should be surprises — though the ads clearly give them away. Not that many genuine surprises exist here if you've seen a thriller or two in your life.

As the film begins, Hawn is waiting for a blind date in a restaurant. Across the room she spots John Heard (the father in "Home Alone," the pragmatic doctor in "Awakenings"), and they exchange looks. The date never shows up, and Hawn heads for home, though she glances back, tempted to return and introduce herself.

The next day, Heard and Hawn meet at her workplace, and she discovers he is also involved in the Manhattan art world, working at a prestigious museum. It's fate, of course, and the film jumps forward about six years to show us they are married, successful, happy and have a 5-year-old girl.

Eventually, after a murder occurs at the museum and is disguised to look like suicide, Hawn begins to find evidence that her husband may not be who he seems to be. Heard is smooth and has an answer for everything, but Hawn isn't completely convinced and starts her own investigation, eventually uncovering more than she would like. She is also searching for the answer to a more important question — if her husband is a fraud, does it necessarily follow that he's also the murderer?

Though you can find out a lot more about the film's plotting by watching the television commercials, the major events depicted in the ads don't really start cropping up in the film until it's about half over. Therefore, you won't read them here. (If you've ever seen the old Katharine Hepburn film "Undercurrent," you get the idea. And, while we're at it, there is also a piece of business that seems to be a direct steal from "Wait Until Dark"; in that film, the villains tear up Audrey Hepburn's place looking for a doll, which she doesn't realize a young girl has taken out of the apartment.)

It should be noted that, in the tradition of Hitchcock, director Harris is very good at covering up weak story elements with stylish direction. Still, some aspects of this film beg for logical explanations. Why is Heard so sloppy in leaving obvious clues all over the place? Has he been leaving such clues for the full six years of their marriage, or is he more recently sloppy? Why don't people in the movies ever call the police when they're in trouble?

And most importantly, why do nearly all suspense pictures have a cat jump out at us?

On the other hand, if you can just turn off the logic center of your brain and go with it, "Deceived" can be fun. Heard is at his oily best and the supporting cast is also quite good. But any way you look at it, this is Hawn's film, and she carries it well.

And it's certainly more satisfying than "Bird on a Wire," "Overboard" or "Wildcats."

"Deceived" is rated PG-13 for violence, profanity and a dreamy (and murkily photographed) sex scene.