Guarding Tess (1994)

Genres - Comedy, Thriller  |   Sub-Genres - Comedy of Manners, Comedy Thriller, Odd Couple Film  |   Release Date - Mar 11, 1994 (USA)  |   Run Time - 95 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG13
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Although director Hugh Wilson's television background is sometimes overly evident in this comedy that plays too much like the feature-length pilot for a sitcom series, the film is a satisfying story told with some welcome craftsmanship and featuring two solid lead performances. Although he misfires at least as often as he succeeds, Nicolas Cage is a bold actor who doesn't mind taking creative chances, so it's a delightful surprise that he plays his Secret Service agent character with the mix of frustration and ramrod-straight uptightness called for by the script. His silent rages are among the film's best scenes. Similarly, his co-star Shirley MacLaine has been known to go a bit overboard with her brassy crab routine, but she's note-perfect here as the depressed, tart-tongued widow tormenting her staff and suffering in silence from depression and a secret illness. Both actors ground a story in reality that is well conceived and tightly structured but occasionally wanders into credulity-straining territory. Its setting is less grand but Guarding Tess (1994) makes a nice cinematic companion piece to two other cheerful, politics-centered comedies of the mid-decade: Dave (1993) and The American President (1995).