Mrs. Harris

on September 16, 2005 by Shlomo Schwartzberg
It's strange that the lurid tale of school headmistress Jean Harris and diet doctor Herman Tarnower has taken so long to make it to the screen. After all, the 1980 case, which saw Harris on trial for the brutal murder of her cheating, insensitive boyfriend, is the very stuff of cinematic drama. "Mrs. Harris" begins promisingly enough, with a blackly comic take on the night Mrs. Harris (Annette Bening) shot Tarnower (Ben Kingsley) four times, ostensibly by accident as he tried to prevent her from committing suicide. But playwright Phyllis Nagy, making her directorial debut, drops the ball early on. The film descends uninterestingly into a mundane court case and flashbacks of the pair's tangled relationship, which aren't all that well dramatized. Kingsley's is the most provocative part of the film, offering up a deeply weird but compelling performance as Tarnower, both a cold, Machiavellian figure and loving naif. If only the film matched his bravura. Starring Annette Bening, Ben Kingsley and Frances Fisher. Directed and written by Phyllis Nagy. Produced by Chrisann Verges. No distributor set. Drama. Not yet rated. Running time: 94 min.
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