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The Deep End


By Rachel Deahl | Posted

You probably don't recognize the names David Siegel and Scott McGehee, and you probably haven't seen their first film, the brilliant 1993 neo-noir, Suture. But the writing/directing team behind The Deep End have monikers you should commit to memory. A stunning and stylish update of The Reckless Moment (1949), the sophomore effort from Siegel and McGehee is a taut psychological drama that lingers long after its credits roll.

Set in a posh suburb on the cusp of Lake Tahoe, Nev., The Deep End focuses on Margaret Hall (Tilda Swinton, the strikingly unforgettable star of Sally Potter's forgettable Orlando), a dutiful soccer mom on her own who's drawn into a web of murder and blackmail. As the film opens, Margaret is buzzing to be let into a place she clearly does not belong: a gay nightclub in Reno in the early afternoon. Once inside, Margaret faces the club's devilishly handsome owner, Darby Reese (Josh Lucas), to whom she issues a fateful warning to stay away from her son, Beau (Jonathan Tucker).

Margaret's pivotal act, though, comes shortly after this first confrontation. Upon discovering Reese's dead body floating off the dock leading from her house, she unblinkingly sinks the corpse in the lake and disposes of any evidence linking her son to a murder she assumes he committed. Matters worsen when a stranger named Alek (ER's Goran Visnjic) arrives at her door with a videotape of Beau fucking the deceased and a demand of $50,000 to keep mum.

From the blackmailer who gets an attack of conscience to the ideal son who's been having a secret homosexual affair to the idyllic mother who's just covered up a homicide, none of the characters in McGehee and Siegel's world are behaving like they should or, more appropriately, as we assume they would. The filmmakers do a wonderful job of subverting the familiar throughout The Deep End. The picturesque Lake Tahoe setting, which surely stands as one of the most stunning environs for a nuclear-family plot, becomes a dark and unpredictable place. The lake itself seeps into the lives of the characters as images of water are repeated throughout the film. Employing Hitchcockian elements of black humor and irony, McGehee and Siegel trade on a classic line from the master of suspense's ode to suburbia, Shadow of a Doubt. As Uncle Charlie (Joseph Cotten) asks rhetorically in that film, "Do you know if you rip the fronts off of houses you'd find swine?" While The Deep End doesn't reveal any swine, it does reinforce the notion that ugly things live in places just beyond our front stoops.

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