Bad Manners

October 23, 1998 at 04:00 AM EDT

The poison-pen domestic thriller Bad Manners barely conceals its stage-bound roots (it’s based on a play by David Gilman), and it’s hardly on a par with its obvious model, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, but it’s sparked by an entertaining sexual nastiness. In a cozy, rambling house on the outskirts of Boston, two couples spend a hostile weekend together that quickly devolves into acrid truth games. The dialogue ping-pongs between the malevolently witty and the overexplicit, but the cast is uniformly terrific. David Strathairn, overacting on purpose, brings a persnickety aggression to the role of a burnt-out academic cynic, and Bonnie Bedelia is brittle yet vulnerable as his long-suffering wife. The exquisitely fatuous Saul Rubinek has his best role in years as a pompous musicologist obsessed with the theory — it’s the movie’s cleverest ploy — that a fragment of ”A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” buried within a computer-composed cacophony was placed there by divine fiat. Best of all is Caroleen Feeney as Rubinek’s lubricious, razor-taloned girlfriend. This actress has the sexiest smile lines since Sharon Stone’s and an attitude to match. She feasts on the role of a game-playing femme fatale who is blithely beyond civility. B

Bad Manners

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Bad Manners

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