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Parker is at her best in Atwood's `Bride'

March 03, 2007|Robert Lloyd | Times Staff Writer

The first thing to say about "The Robber Bride" -- a Canadian-British co-production airing domestically tonight as "Oxygen's newest original film" -- is that it's based on a novel by Margaret Atwood, a literary icon not merely north of the border. The second, more locally important point, is that it stars Mary-Louise Parker ("Weeds"), who gives the film a little semi-big-name American heat and Parker fans another chance to watch her do that thing she does.

The story concerns an attractive sociopath (Parker) and the three former classmates -- a businesswoman, an academic and a hippie -- she victimizes. In attempting to give some focus and narrative drive to Atwood's nonlinear tale, screenwriter Tassie Cameron ("Degrassi: The Next Generation") has interpolated new material involving an ex-cop (Shawn Doyle, "Big Love") trying to prove an old friend innocent of murder. But this turns a book about relations among women into the familiar film-noir story of the Troubled Shamus and the Femme Fatale; Atwood's feminist critiques and Brothers Grimm borrowings are hard to descry through the whodunit, though there are some attempts to say something about life as (unreliable) narrative.

In spite of these weaknesses, the film has a nice tone -- it's stylish without being fussy -- and if not really satisfying is easy to watch.

Parker completists will be pleased. The actress, who has a gift for playing women in need of psychotropic medication, turns in another attractively languid performance. Apart from Parker, only the extra-textual detective gets much of a part, but Doyle has a nicely worn presence -- a good match for Parker when they finally meet -- and is, until he gets a little stupid toward the end, easy to believe in.


`The Robber Bride'

Where: Oxygen

When: 8 to 10 tonight

Rating: TV-14-DV (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 14, with advisories for suggestive dialogue and violence)

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