The Ref (1994)

Genres - Comedy Drama, Crime  |   Sub-Genres - Domestic Comedy, Farce  |   Release Date - Mar 9, 1994 (USA)  |   Run Time - 97 min.  |   Countries - United States  |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Perry Seibert

That its plot resolves itself too cleanly does not matter -- The Ref is an actor's film. Kevin Spacey and Judy Davis are uncommonly gifted performers whose verbal battles in this film are as scathing as any screen couple in history (Burton and Taylor in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? are the obvious comparison). Their performances are emotionally intricate. The characters do not listen to each other anymore, but they certainly still hear the resentment, frustration, and anger in their mutual insults. Gifted screenwriter Richard LaGravenese's literate dialogue keeps the barbs simultaneously painful and hysterical. Denis Leary's character is the key to the film. He is just as annoyed by these characters as the audience. Fans of Leary's hyper-verbal style will not be disappointed. While his character possesses a superior verbal acuity, he has met his equals in the ultimate bickering couple. The three drive each other into a comedic, verbose frenzy. By no means perfect, comfortable, or heartwarming, The Ref is a smart, biting look at marriage, acted with gusto by the three leads. One is tempted to believe that had The Ref been released after American Beauty, it would have found a larger audience for its challenging, acidly funny tone.