Thursday, October 20, 2016
A SHOCK TO THE SYSTEM
Graham Marshall (Michael Caine of Alfie) works in the marketing department at a large Manhattan firm. He is sure that he is next in promotion after his current boss, George Brewster (John McMartin), but to his horror and rage learns that has has been passed over in favor of a younger, slick asshole named Robert Benham (Peter Riegert). Adding to Graham's irritation is the presence of his wife, Leslie (Swoosie Kurtz), who is not sensitive enough to his needs, and whose response when he is passed over is not exactly supportive. When Graham is nearly frazzled in an electrical accident in his home, he comes up with an idea for solving his problems ... Based on a far superior novel by Simon Brett, A Shock to the System is well-acted by all, holds the attention, and is probably more entertaining to those who have never read the book. Andrew Klavan's screenplay makes many unnecessary changes -- including switching the story's locale from England to New York! --but has stupid moments, eliminates characters, jumbles sequences, and emerges as an acceptable "Lifetime" movie and not much else. (Klavan is typical of a minor screenwriter who thinks he can "out-clever" the original author, and fails.) Jan Egleson, basically a television director, covers the action adequately but there is no inspiration in the presentation of events, and even the suspense is comparatively minimal. Barbara Baxley [East of Eden] is Graham's mother-in-law (a highly interesting character in the novel who is virtually a non-entity in the film); Will Patton is a detective (also a much less interesting character than in the book); and Elizabeth McGovern of Downtown Abbey plays an office worker who dallies with Graham.
Verdict: Okay enough on its own terms, but you'd be better off reading the novel and skipping this adaptation. **1/2.