Her Alibi

June 28, 2011

Selleck’s back and Porizkova’s got him; it doesn’t really have a ring to it, does it? Her Alibi is a new film that would like to summon up some old-fashioned movie romance, but they just don’t make movies like that anymore, nor do they seem able to.

Tom Selleck, riding high off the success of Three Men and a Baby, evidently thought Her Alibi would be just the thing to exploits his talents as a light leading man. It may have looked that way on paper, too; as a blueprint, Her Alibi contains some attractive possibilities.

Selleck plays a writer of detective novels whose pen has dried up. He’s been blocked since his wife left him a few years back. But, hanging around the courthouse one day, he spots a murder suspect (Paulina Porizkova) and decides that she will be the subject of his new mystery.

It follows that he invents an alibi for her, which gets her out of jail and into his Connecticut house (and eventually into his bed). There’s supposed to be some tension in the possibility that she’s actually guilty and might try to kill her alibi, but I doubt that audiences will worry much about that. The big question, and nearly the only question, is how long it’s going to take for Tom and Paulina to get into a clinch. (The answer is, not long.)

At one point, Selleck’s editor (William Daniels) takes a look at the chapters Selleck has written about this encounter and declares that the characters display “cretinous” behavior. I’d have to agree with that assessment. Almost every character acts like a moron: “Do I look like an idiot?” Selleck asks. Yes, in this movie, he does.

The script (by Charlie Peters) is so flimsy, it’s amazing anyone could have thought it ready to be filmed. But the most disturbing thing is that a respectable director, Bruce Beresford, would fall for this. Beresford, who made Breaker Morant in Australia and Tender Mercies over here, is strictly doing hack work. There’s nothing that suggests he’s interested in the material.

He doesn’t even get good work from Selleck, who never quite finds the groove. Paulina Porizkova, of course, is a model—excuse me, supermodel—turned actress. She made her acting debut in Anna a couple of years ago, and acquitted herself well. In Her Alibi, she doesn’t have anything to do except look fabulous, so there’s no problem. But there really isn’t much heat between the two stars.

Her Alibi even sells short its hero. Selleck is supposed to be a best-selling author, and the film is narrated with snatches of his new novel. Based on these, he’s a terrible writer, clichéd and obvious. So the movie doesn’t merely make him look like a schmuck, it makes him look worthless. The guy never had a chance.

First published in the Herald, February 1989

Selleck finally got the bigscreen thing going with Three Men and a Baby, and then he went right back into bad choices. This is an absolute stiff. It came out a few months before Beresford’s other 1989 movie, Driving Miss Daisy, which worked out a little better (I’m not sure why I expressed surprise at Beresford’s falling for the project; he’d already made a few clunkers). Charlie Peters, by the way, also wrote Blame It on Rio, a very difficult memory for me. My opening phrase was meant to conjure up the tag line for Adventure with Clark Gable and Greer Garson, which evidently I felt enough people would recognize in order to make the reference worthwhile.