"The Outside Woman" review

Variety, February 15-21, 1989

"The Outside Woman" enters into the sweeps battle with a better-than-outside chance of emerging as a ratings winner. This superb drama has everything going for it-sex, a prison break, real-life inspiration-and features terrific principal performances by Sharon Gless and Scott Glenn.

Most notably, writer William Blinn and producer-director Lou Antonio have crafted a tightly woven film that moves along crisply and surely with a real sense of devil-may-care atmosphere. Like its main characters, the film proves all the more compelling because of its complete simplicity.

Gless plays Joyce, a small-town factor worker who begins visiting prison inmates as part of a church function only to become enamored with one of the convicts (Glenn)-a self-admitted louse who begins by warning her that he's trouble.

Nevertheless, the two begin to correspond via tape-recorded letters, and the bored and downtrodden woman begins to fall for Jesse, no doubt in part due to the sense of menace and adventure he conveys.

From there, it's a short leap for Jesse and another prisoner (Max Gail) to conspire to get Joyce to hijack a helicopter and fly them out, though the trio of convicts who escape are as simple and shortsighted as Joyce is: They've no idea where they're going, only that they're having a good time getting there.

Blinn's screenplay is loaded with little gems, such as escapee Jimmy (Kyle Secor) and his preoccupation with the fact that their exploits were mentioned by Paul Harvey and Tom Brokaw. All but doomed from the start by their own bumbling, the four still revel in a wanton outlaw exhilaration reminiscent of "Bonnie and Clyde."

Gless and Glenn project marvelous chemistry. Her performance is particularly impressive because she comes off as so naive and simple, in start contrast to her "Cagney & Lacey" persona, while Glenn perfectly embodies the magnetism and malice requisite to his role.

How closely the film parallels the story of the woman who actually did helicopter her boyfriend out of prison is unknown, but in the ways that count, "Outside Woman" rarely hits a false note.

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