Sara Vilkomerson’s Guide To This Week’s Movies: Basinger Hits Bottom

thirdstringer 22 Sara Vilkomerson’s Guide To This Week’s Movies: Basinger Hits BottomO.K., so we watched a movie for this week’s Third Stringer called While She Was Out. It stars Kim Basinger and Lukas Haas, and was executive-produced by Guillermo del Toro. Sounds promising, right? After all, who doesn’t remember how awesome Ms. Basinger was in L.A. Confidential, The Natural and Batman? (Not to mention the way underappreciated Door in the Floor.) And come on … Lukas Haas? Little Amish kid with the big eyes who crawled under the bathroom stall in Witness? Mr. del Toro directed Pan’s Labyrinth! These are all the ingredients for an excellent movie. And yet … and yet. After getting through this sucker (just barely), we have so many questions we hardly know where to start. So we’ll start with the biggest. Kim Basinger, what’s happened to you? And, more importantly, who is helping you with your career choices? Because they should stop. Immediately.

While She Was Out opens in a tony suburb littered with McMansions and hoity-toity Christmas decorations. We meet Kim’s husband (Craig Sheffer), who’s a brute—we know this because he snarls as he walks in the door and immediately complains about the messy house and how Della (Basinger) has let herself go. (To be fair, the house does look pretty messy … but still.) They have a pair of spooky twins, and Della seems remarkably fragile and unable to do much of anything. She piles herself into the SUV and heads to the mall, where every single citizen of this town must have been because it felt like she was looking for holiday parking in real time. After seeing that a car took up two spaces, Della has had enough: She writes a searing note (“hey jerk”) and proceeds to shakily buy some tea; runs into a college friend, which further unhinges her; and gets her credit card rejected, forcing her to forage around for change to pay for wrapping paper. But all that is fine! It’s when she gets back to the car that things take a troubling turn. Mr. Haas, the driver of the selfish vehicle, apparently didn’t appreciate her note, so he and his slang-addicted gang surround her and insinuate they are going to rape and kill her. And then they actually kill a security guard! So Della flees and the gang chases after her, and with that, so goes what was left of the plot. Because where does Della drive; the police station? A crowded place with lots of witnesses? Florida? No! She drives into an abandoned housing lot in a dense forest. Sigh. The rest of the movie is an excruciating game of cat and mouse as Della (armed with a surprisingly handy red tool box) tries to hide and then, inevitably, finds inner strength to fight back. Ms. Basinger is as beautiful as ever, and no one can toss distressed tresses like she can. But there’s only so much one can do while peering behind a tree. As for Mr. Haas, we spent most of the time wondering if he was supposed to be Mexican and also where he learned to talk like he hails from New Jack City.

We’ll leave you with our favorite out-of-context line of dialogue: “He just wanted to see the ocean one time.” Yep, it’s like that.

While She Was Out opens December 12 at the AMC Empire 25 and Cinema Village.

svilkomerson@observer.com