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MOVIE REVIEW : A Stunning 'Silence' : Jodie Foster's FBI trainee is pitted against Anthony Hopkins' insane, evil psychiatrist in Jonathan Demme's suspenseful 'The Silence of the Lambs.'

February 13, 1991|SHEILA BENSON | TIMES FILM CRITIC

Demme and screenwriter Tally have also done lovely things with the brief flashbacks illuminating Starling's childhood as the adoring daughter of a small town marshal. Foster's subtle, intelligent performance takes it from there, filling in the whole woman; Clarice, coloring under Lecter's cruel mimicry of her almost-buried "rube" accent, flinching at his brutally accurate X-ray of her ambition and her attempt to better herself through the academy.

Hopkins' performance may be the film's bravura showpiece, but Foster's goes the whole distance, steadfast, controlled, heartbreakingly insightful, a fine addition to her gallery of characterizations.

Although Crawford's search for Buffalo Bill and the Starling/Lecter duel dominate the action, the film is dotted with real, peripheral characters who give it a sense of authenticity: Kasi Lemmons as Starling's supportive roommate Ardilia; Paul Lazar as the sweetly friendly Smithsonian entomologist; Anthony Heald as Lecter's prideful jailer, the smarmy Dr. Chilton, and Ted Levine's terrifying Buffalo Bill, a.k.a. Jame Gumb.

'The Silence of the Lambs'

Jodie Foster: Clarice Starling

Anthony Hopkins: Dr. Hannibal Lecter

Scott Glenn: Jack Crawford

Ted Levine: Jame Gumb/Buffalo Bill

Anthony Heald: Dr. Frederick Chilton

Kasi Lemmons: Ardilia Mapp

An Orion release of a Strong Heart/Demme production. Producers Edward Saxon, Kenneth Utt, Ron Bozman. Executive producer Gary Goetzman. Director Jonathan Demme. Screenplay Ted Tally based on the novel by Thomas Harris. Camera Tak Fujimoto. Editor Craig McKay. Music Howard Shore. Production design Kristie Zea. Costumes Colleen Atwood. Running time: 1 hour, 58 minutes.

MPAA-rated: R (terror, gore, explicits shots of murder victims, violence and threats of violence, language)

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