I have a confession to make: I’ve never read a romance novel (unless you count Twilight, which I think is a little too YA to be considered a romance novel). So, in what I’m about to say, I may be doing a disservice to the genre of romance novels. But, I think that Deadly Illusions should have just been a book. The kind of book you’d find in an airport, to tear through on a three hour flight. The kind of book you might see countless copies of at your local thrift store.
Deadly Illusions is the worst movie I’ve seen so far in 2021. I’ve seen a bunch of movies already this year, and not all of them were good (some of them were pretty bad). Bad movies can be entertaining, when done right. They have to be self-aware, campy — the script can’t take itself too seriously. When a movie knows it’s ridiculous, it usually works. The actors have to be in on it, too. From the trailer, it looks like this will be the case — unfortunately, it’s not.
Deadly Illusions is made up of a cast that’s usually pretty fun to watch. At least, Kristin Davis could have channeled more of her inner Charlotte York for this role of successful wife, mother and novelist Mary Morrison. Instead, it seems like she’s just going through the motions, knowing that she could do better, but not really willing to put forth the effort.
I don’t even want to get into the plot of this movie. It’s bad. It’s offensively bad. Mary Morrison’s life is perfect; the beginning of Deadly Illusions makes sure that we have no questions about that. She’s got an extremely stylish home, a great wardrobe, two kids who she has individual secret handshakes with, and her loving husband Tom (Dermot Mulroney). She’s also an author whose successful mystery series “Delirium” keeps the paychecks coming, even though she hasn’t written for years.
Mary’s publisher shows up one day to offer her a $2 million advance to write another book; she doesn’t want to take the deal, but she has to, because her husband made some bad investments. So, at her friend’s advice, she hires a nanny to help with the kids and housework so she can get some writing done. Grace (Greer Grammer) shows up in a tennis skirt with a bow in her hair. She loves books. She’s hired.
When Grace meets Tom Morrison, she’s in a swimsuit — of course she is. At this point, Deadly Illusions is still laughably bad, entertaining bad, and downright goofy at times. There’s a lot of really awkward and stilted dialogue and scenes about sexual tension that just feel forced. The actors actually have no chemistry whatsoever. It’s a bit embarrassing that this film was written and directed by a woman, Anna Elizabeth James, when so many scenes feel like they were written by a twelve year old boy.
Early on in Deadly Illusions, Mary hints to her friend Elaine (Shanola Hampton) that something happens to her when she writes- she “becomes a different person’. It’s not until more than halfway through the film that we begin to see this other side of Mary. Most of the plot of Deadly Illusions takes place in the second half of the film. I’m not sure if the excruciating first half of the film is meant to make it seem like a slow burn or what, but kudos to you if you’re still paying attention by the time the plot becomes (sort of) interesting.
By the time we get around to the big “plot twist” of Deadly Illusions, you’ll likely already be confused, bored, or both, and then the plot twist will only make you more confused and bored — if it doesn’t just make you straight up angry. I fall into the latter camp. I don’t care about the twist, or the confusion of the ending, and I’m not concerned about what really happened, because I doubt even the writer knows.
Without giving away what the twist is, I will say that it’s really discouraging to see that movies that vilify mental illness in this way are still being made. On the bright side, it is nice to see more queer movies; we deserve more ridiculous lesbian thrillers. But we didn’t really need this one when we already have Chloe.
Deadly Illusions comes to digital platforms June 1
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