Someone to Watch Over Me

Someone to Watch Over Me presents the none-too-novel situation of a cop being asked to guard a high-society woman who is a witness to a murder. Proximity being the matchmaker that it is, the cop and the society dame fall in love.

The world “witness” is the tip-off here; this movie is embarrassingly close to the cross-cultural romance of Witness, although there’s no little kid here and the Manhattan high life takes the place of Amishness. Someone taps into the same dynamic of two very different people feeling a very human pull when they’re thrown together.

And these two people are different, all right. The cop (Tom Berenger) is a plain-talking flatfoot who’s just made detective. He lives in Queens with his wife and son in a small house. Meat and potatoes. Salt of the earth.

Then he gets his first whiff of champagne. A wealthy, beautiful upper-crust lady (Mimi Rogers) witnesses a gangland murder in a dance club. She identifies the killer, but he’s the sort of bad dude who could have her rubbed out at any moment; so she gets a 24-hour guard put on her ritzy apartment. Our man Berenger draws night duty.

During the early stages of their mutual attraction, there are some tender moments. When she wants to go to a museum opening, she takes him along as escort. A delicate, mysterious bond is made between them when she insists on buying him a more expensive tie for the occasion.

Pretty soon Berenger is starting to slip words such as “aperitif” and “cocktail” into his vocabulary. In the film’s best scenes, there’s some nice feeling for the early stages of infatuation, and the romance of New York streets at night.

The movie becomes all too standard as it heads toward its predictably violent conclusion, in which a pat solution is simultaneously found for both the criminal and the romantic aspects of the plot.

With every movie he makes, the director, Ridley Scott, becomes less and less interesting. He has directed Alien, Blade Runner, and the giggly Legend. His visual busyness seemed appropriate for larger-than-life projects; here, all the flashing lights and smoky close-ups simply serve to show how little originality is present.

Scott has cast the film well, however. Berenger, the Ahab-like sergeant in Platoon, uses his low brow to connote the cop’s simplicity, though his New Yawk accent sometimes just sounds like an actor doing a New Yawk accent.

The real find is Mimi Rogers, for whom this is a breakthrough role of sorts. She’s done television and recently appeared in Street Smart, but nothing that suggested the depth of this characterization. She’s cool, careful, and lovely, and the best thing about Scott’s direction of her is that he puts her in a lot of luminous close-ups. This makes us understand Berenger’s attraction to her, in case we needed any help.

First published in The Herald, October 1987

I guess I was so impressed with Mimi Rogers that I forgot to mention Lorraine Bracco, who plays Berenger’s wife – her first really significant film role. The movie came out not long after Rogers married Tom Cruise, but I was too lofty to mention such a thing.

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