General's Daughter, TheReviewed By desdemona
Posted 07/17/99 00:20:24
The General's Daughter built itself up to be some high-tech thriller/mystery twisted-sick-insane movie, but it was really a movie about uncaring fathers and the plights of women in the military.I hate to trivialize the plights of women in the military like that, but I'll be honest: I was expecting something quite different than what I got from this movie.
The General's Daughter is about the murder of Captain Elisabeth Campbell (Leslie Stefanson), the general's daughter, and how everyone close to her seems to want to cover it up. Detective-soldier Paul Brennen (John Travolta) works very hard to uncover the truth of her death, along with the help of his ex-lover (which is apparently completely irrelevant information) and rape counselor Sarah Sunhill (Madeline Stowe). You see, the general's daughter was strangled while she was tied down naked and spread-eagle, a position that would point towards a rape/murder but (surprise!) there was no rape involved. So why was she killed, and why was she killed in that particular significant position? Well, that's what the audience is supposed to care about, anyway. And it is an intriguing story. At first.
At first the murder seems to be some big military cover-up headed by Elisabeth's father General Joseph Campbell (James Cromwell) with some dark, highly incriminating secret behind it. And that's sort of what it was, I suppose. But not really.
First what the investigators must do is figure out Elisabeth's dark secret. Why all the hidden S and M paraphenalia in her basement? And why does someone seem so desperate to cover that up, along with the secret that Elisabeth was sleeping with almost every soldier under her father's command? Well, one thing leads to another and Paul and Sarah find out that something unimaginably terrible happened to Elisabeth in her past that in some way involved her father and the military, and that is what led to all her reckless behavior. But I'm not going to spoil that surprise for you; it was the only truly interesting thing in this entire movie.
So after Paul and Sarah uncover the mystery of Elisabeth the Living, We the Audience get plunged back into the mystery of Elisabeth's death, which frankly is losing it's value as an attention-grabber. So we're back in the endless loop of questions: why was she killed, why was she killed, and why was she killed. After awhile, you just stop caring.
Then, finally, all the questions are answered. Now, I don't want to spoil that wonderful ending for you, but let me just say this much: isn't the jealous boyfriend thing a little overdone? Don't worry, I didn't give away anything--this little lassie had a lot of boyfriends.
In short, the story within the story was highly intriguing, not to mention completely horrifying in all its atrocities and sexist hate-crimes. One must feel genuine pity for Elisabeth and genuine hatred for her monstrous father. Unfortunately, that story was not THE story and we had to deal with the utter pointlessness of the rest of the movie.
But I will give The General's Daughter one thing: there is some really great acting to be seen in this movie. In fact, the acting was really the saving grace of this movie. John Travolta was an excellent good guy with a quick tongue; Madeline Stowe was a great empowered female with brains to beat all the boys; James Cromwell played his part of hateable bastard perfectly; and James Woods (who played Robert Moore, a close friend of Elisabeth's) was a totally believable sarcastic, quick-witted, loyal man with a dark secret. I was also very impressed by Leslie Stefanson, even though she didn't have that large a role. In her brief performances, the pain and the hate that Elisabeth HAD to feel were obvious in Leslie's body language, facial expressions, voice inflections, and line delivery. That's pretty good for someone most people have never even heard of before. I look forward to seeing her in some larger roles in the future.
But despite all the great performances, the plot still left something to be desired.The book was probably better.
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