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MOVIE REVIEW : 'Separate Lives' Thriller Puts Psychiatrist on the Couch

November 20, 1995|DAVID KRONKE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

"Separate Lives" is the direct-to-video version of "Never Talk to Strangers," which itself staked out the lowest-common-denominator audience. Both movies concern imperiled psychiatrists who themselves are borderline bonkers; both have private investigators getting romantic with their subjects; both have the same banal revelation at their finales.

That this movie (actually made long before "Strangers") has slipped into a theater or two before getting consigned to convenience-store rental bins can be chalked up to the flimsy star-power generated by Linda Hamilton and Jim Belushi, working together for the first time since the equally lamentable "Mr. Destiny"; less explicable is why the two are in this movie in the first place.

Hamilton plays Lauren, a psychology professor who, in what must be some sort of ethical breach, hires one of her students, ex-cop Tom (Belushi), to follow her around. Seems she's having these blackouts, doesn't know what she's doing during them; a gun and murder are involved, you know the drill.

Tom discovers that what she's doing--gasp!--is donning skimpy outfits and dancing lasciviously in trendy bars with Eurotrash! So he heads for the home of her boyfriend during her blackouts, finds him naked and starts rasslin' on the carpet with him (memo to film historians: Remember this scene when assembling footage for Belushi's AFI retrospective).

Like most movies of this ilk, the screenplay plays out as if its author were only semi-literate (Steven Pressfield's previous credits include a couple of Steven Seagal flicks--say no more). For example, one character tells Lauren early on, "We need to talk, I'll call you," apparently oblivious to the fact that they are talking, they're already on the phone and neither has a reason to hang up except to move on to the next scene. And why does Tom never tell Lauren of her blackout activities? And what cop would let a subject under surveillance just saunter out his back door in broad daylight? And judging from the visuals, director David Madden didn't get within spitting distance of a camera's eyepiece during the entire production.

Belushi actually puts an admirable amount of effort into his performance, while Hamilton looks like she wants to be anywhere but in this movie. For that reason alone, it's easier to sympathize with Hamilton.

* MPAA-rating: R, for "scenes of violence and sexuality, and for strong language." Times guidelines: It includes shots of Belushi tumbling around with a naked guy .

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

'Separate Lives'

Jim Belushi: Tom

Linda Hamilton: Lauren

An Interscope Communications/Trimark production, released by Trimark Pictures. Director David Madden. Producers Mark Amin, Diane Nabatoff, Guy Riedel. Screenplay by Steven Pressfield. Cinematographer Kees Van Oostrum. Editor Janice Hampton. Costumes Jacqueline G. Arthur. Music William Olvis. Production design Bernt Capra. Running time: 1 hour, 42 minutes.

In limited release throughout Southern California.

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