Mrs. Winterbourne (1996)

Mrs. Winterbourne (1996)Synopsis:

After a train wreck, homeless and very pregnant young woman, Connie Doyle (Ricki Lake, Hairspray), is mistaken for the widow of a handsome millionaire, Hugh Winterbourne (Brendan Fraser, Gods and Monsters). Lonely and destitute, Connie decides to play along, causing many unexpected complications.

Reaction & Thoughts:

Many years ago, I remember watching a film called No Man of Her Own (1950), starring one of my favorite actresses, Barbara Stanwyck. What I liked most about that movie was its brooding atmosphere and film noir qualities. Little did I know then that the basic storyline (an adaptation of Cornell Woolrich’s suspenseful story I Married a Dead Man) would be playing for laughs some day. But this is exactly what the film Mrs. Winterbourne is all about; a remake of an original thriller transformed into a romantic comedy, adjusted to please the 1990s’ sensibilities.

Although the film received mainly unfavorable reviews, and most of the public stayed away during its initial theatrical run, I found Mrs. Winterbourne, directed by Richard Benjamin (My Favorite Year and The Money Pit) from a screenplay by Lisa-Maria Radano and Phoef Sutton, to be quite funny and an extremely well made film that only starts losing some steam while reaching its much-anticipated climax.

Mrs. Winterbourne was primarily conceived as Ricki Lake’s first starring vehicle. Although she is quite good in this film — especially during the first half — I think someone like Julia Roberts or Sandra Bullock (the queens of romantic comedies) would have elevated this film into something a bit more satisfying. Lake is, however, very charming and she does a good job delivering some of the film’s funniest lines.

Unfortunately for Lake, after achieving great success as the host of her own TV talk show, audiences simply could not accept her as a movie star, and in later years she has chosen to concentrate on her TV show, rather than to pursue a movie career. She should not be ashamed of Mrs. Winterbourne, since the film achieves its main purpose of giving audiences a relaxing, enjoyable time.

Fraser has good rapport with Lake (he plays two roles). Shirley MacLaine, (The Apartment) who plays Fraser’s stern but kind mother, steals most of the show with an expert performance. Miguel Sandoval (Jurassic Park and Clear and Present Danger) has some funny lines too. The cast also includes Peter Gerety (Get the Gringo), Loren Dean (Gattaca) and Jane Krakowski (Elaine Vassal in TV’s Ally McBeal).

Patrick Doyle (Sense and Sensibility and A Little Princess) delivers a nicely whimsical music score. The glitzy cinematography is by Alex Nepomniaschy (Tall, Dark and Deadly and The Associate).

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

Mrs. Winterbourne is a fun film that has been unjustly described by many as a stinker. The film is a harmless and quite entertaining mistaken-identity romp that could serve as perfect time filler in an uneventful evening. Color, 105 minutes, Rated PG-13.

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