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cast: Blair Brown, Bridget Fonda, Bruno Ganz, Hugh Laurie, and Michael Gough

director: David Hare

100 mins (R) 1989
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
Anchor Bay DVD Region 1 retail

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by Gary Couzens
Lillian Hempel (Blair Brown) is an expatriate American living in London and working as a doctor in a hospital threatened with closure. Her feckless sister Amy (Bridget Fonda), a freelance dress designer, lives with her. Whilst on holiday, Lillian meets the handsome, mysterious Raymond (Bruno Ganz), who makes a pass at her. Back in London, Lillian soon finds out that Raymond's pursuit of her is not over...
   Strapless was the third and last of the films that David Hare directed from his own screenplays in the 1980s. Since then, apart from some screenplays for other directors, he's concentrated on the theatre, with considerable success.
   Strapless is the sort of film which might have had a better reception had it been made in another language and subtitled into English, the price to pay for attempting to make European-style art movies in Britain. (It says something about Hare's reputation overseas that it takes an American company to bring out his work on DVD.) Strapless is a character-led mini-plot with a somewhat ambiguous ending, and relies on subtle nuance rather than overstatement or action. The title not only describes the dresses Amy makes, but is a metaphor for living 'without any means of support'. The casting of Euro-film icon Bruno Ganz only adds to the art-movie feel. Hare's script is full of minute detail about his characters and their lives, though (with hindsight) there's a chilling moment when Amy's boyfriend, a photographer, describes his job: "Diana in a bikini and pregnant, and you won't have to work again in your life." Hare is known for writing strong roles for women, and this is easily Blair Brown's best screen role, particularly as she is of an age (40 plus) where good parts for actresses tend to dry up. Fonda and Ganz are fine, and there's a solid supporting cast that includes Hugh Laurie and Michael Gough.
   The DVD is in the original mono, but as Strapless is very much a dialogue-driven film, that doesn't really hurt. The only extra is the trailer.

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