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J-Lo is the woman in jeopardy in 'Enough'

Friday, May 24, 2002

By Barbara Vancheri, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

When the just-married Mitch assures his bride, "You're safe with me, Slim, and it's OK to be happy," a woman sitting nearby let out an "Aaah." As if to convey, how sweet.


RATING: PG-13 for intense scenes of domestic violence, some sensuality and language.

STARRING: Jennifer Lopez, Billy Campbell

DIRECTOR: Michael Apted

WEB SITE: www.sonypictures.



To me, however, that promise in the thriller "Enough" was the equivalent of a red flag the size of U.S. Steel Tower. Such declarations are a sure sign there is trouble ahead -- even if you haven't seen the preview, in which a terrorized Slim is on the run. Safe? Happy? Where's the tension in that?

"Enough" is the latest woman-in-jeopardy movie to come our way in the past two months. This time, instead of Ashley Judd's lawyer, Jodie Foster's wealthy but wounded divorcee or Sandra Bullock's hard-edged cop, it's Jennifer Lopez as Slim, a woman who will decide she's had enough.

Slim is working as a diner waitress when she first encounters Mitch (Billy Campbell). He comes to her defense when another customer (Noah Wyle) tries to woo Slim -- in order to win a bet. Before you know it, the movie zips to Slim and Mitch's fairy-tale wedding, financed by his wealthy parents since her mother is dead and her father long absent.

In yet another fast-forward, Mitch buys Slim her dream home (after telling the owner, whose house wasn't for sale, "think how miserable one determined crazy person could make you") and is soon father of a daughter, Grace. Bumps in the road emerge when Mitch seems to be working too much and admits to an affair -- for which he apologizes.

But when Slim later suspects he's still cheating and confronts him, the violence is unleashed. Asked how many women he's seeing, Mitch cavalierly replies, "What does it matter?... I'm a man. Men and women have different needs."

And then he slaps Slim, punches her and sends her crashing to the floor. "Enough" charts Slim's efforts to escape with her daughter, Mitch's obsession with finding them and the sort of clattering, cataclysmic confrontation that is standard in movies like this.

"Enough," directed by Michael Apted and written by Nicholas Kazan (who adapted "Reversal of Fortune"), lets Lopez show her vulnerable side and her tough-gal side -- when she takes up something called "Krav Maga," a form of martial arts developed by the Israeli military to strengthen women. When you put Lopez up against Judd, Foster or Bullock as a heroine pushed to the limits, she holds her own.

Campbell from "Once and Again" and "ER" veteran Wyle seem to be spending their summer vacations -- on screen -- proving they can be nasty, vengeful, despicable men. And they do a darn good job of it. It's actually all the more shocking to watch Campbell clock Lopez (and someone sure juiced the sound effects), given his sensitive character from the now-canceled ABC drama.

"Enough" does a jarring thing by inserting title cards such as "how they met" and "conquering hero," too frivolous for the subject matter. It also raises and conveniently discards all the usual options for battered women, including cops, shelters and sympathetic lawyers.

Its treatment of Gracie (Tessa Allen), who appears to be 4 or 5 years old, is most disturbing. Watching her cry during a high-speed car chase left me uneasy, but not as much as her later withdrawn behavior. This child deserves some explanation (or therapy) for the craziness inflicted on her once tranquil suburban life.

"Enough" is best when Slim is trying to flee and is on the run, least convincing when it instantly turns Mitch into battering beast and Slim into Krav Maga maven. As if to assure us that Slim has a license to clobber or kill, her waitress friend (Juliette Lewis) reminds her that she has a "divine animal right" to protect herself and her offspring.

And movie audiences, apparently, have their own right to be bloodthirsty -- police, the law, logic and moral middle ground be damned.

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