Compromising Positions (1985)

Genres - Comedy, Mystery  |   Sub-Genres - Comedy Thriller, Whodunit  |   Run Time - 98 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Craig Butler

The screenplay for Compromising Positions has all the ingredients for a delightful murder mystery-comedy. There's an amusingly despicable murder victim, a long list of could've-done-its, a spunky and determined amateur sleuth, a seasoned crime professional, and an interesting (although determinedly non-exotic) setting. Unfortunately, the screenplay also includes a number of characters who are not entertaining enough to make up for their essential unpleasantness (and therefore come across as bores to the audience). Frank Perry's direction, which emphasizes the venality of the characters at the expense of their comic potential, only adds to its misanthropic feeling, and his often sluggish pacing doesn't help the situation. Fortunately, Compromising Positions has a strong cast. Susan Sarandon can't quite make Judith a fully rounded character -- the screenplay spends too much time whizzing her from one clue to another and not enough time fleshing her out -- but she's fun to be with, and she and Raul Julia exhibit a nice chemistry. Judith Ivey is a standout as a cynical sculptress, and Joe Mantegna is perfect in his all-too-brief role as the victim. In addition, the film is quite effective in its precise observations about the emptiness of suburban life. Director Perry would follow Compromising Positions with only one more directorial effort, the unmemorable Hello Again.