Too much suspense and too little drama in ‘The Hand That Rocks the Cradle’

A tale of multiple wrongs not making a right meets vengeance, The Hand That Rocks the Cradle (1992) grew up with a 1980’s sensibility that landed in the final decade of the twentieth century.  The movie landed roughly 2-positive reviews to another that went the other way among film critics and moviegoers alike as it aimed for the sympathy of women and mothers scorned with men behaving reprehensibly. There are spoilers in this review.

Cradle Rock 2(John De Lancie)

The first villain for The Hand That Rocks the Cradle sets a series of unfortunate events in motion for a movie that begins as drama is Dr. Victor Mott as portrayed by John de Lancie. Mott, as a gynecologist, is shown taking professional advantage of sympathetic movie heroine Claire Bartel, played by Annabella Sciorra. Not sure if she should report the exam room abuse, Claire is convinced by husband Michael (actor Matt McCoy) to report the crime.

Cradle Rock 4(Matt McCoy)

When faced with abuse allegations from Claire Bartel and other women, Mott ends his life with a pregnant wife. Mrs. Mott introduces herself to the Bartel’s meet as Peyton Flanders as a nanny, not admitting the outcome of losing her baby and the ability to become pregnant shortly after her husband’s suicide. With news of her husband’s primary accuser, Claire Bartel, showing in the hospital room following the loss of her own family, Rebecca De Mornay as Mrs. Mott pretending to be Peyton Flanders lands the nanny job up for grabs in the Bartel household following the birth of a son.

Cradle Rock 3(Rebecca De Mornay, left, and Annabella Sciorra, right)

With the story moving from stolen innocence in a doctor’s office to lost family with a suicide, miscarriage, and reproductive injury, the story clearly moves from drama to the suspense of motive, opportunity, and deceptively obtained means to acquire revenge and a stolen family of one’s own. These were the motivations in the narrative arc of movie villain Peyton Flanders.

Cradle Rock 5(Julianne Moore)

Ernie Hudson as Solomon, Madeline Zima as Emma Bartel, and Julianne Moore as Marlene Craven each played prominent roles in determining an outcome to the tension laid out above. Without getting into the detail for how things move from conflict to resolution, my largest disappointment with the film is that the resolution didn’t strike a reasonable fit with the tension developed in getting the Claire and Peyton into conflict.

Cradle Rock 6(Madeline Zima)

That the trope of women in one’s home over the subject of family and kids is a tired one in 2018, and was entering the same back in 1992, could not rescue The Hand That Rocks the Cradle from an unfavorable reckoning for me with regards to this movie. The story itself, I think, was not without potential. My feeling is that the process would have worked better as strictly drama. Making this a drama turned suspense film did not work.

Cradle Rock 7(Ernie Hudson)

Matt – Wednesday, May 02, 2018

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