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'The Hand That Rocks the Cradle' is an effective thriller

The Hand That Rocks the Cradle

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The demands of modern life often require parents to entrust their children’s care and feeding to others. Often, such arrangements work out well and the caregivers, children and parents are all well-served by the arrangements. But as movie makers are inclined to remind us, mayhem can result from the intrusion of a nanny into a household. Yesterday, this column reviewed “Mrs. Doubtfire,” which was released in the early 1990s, and the resulting mayhem was played for laughs. But a far more sinister kind of mayhem can erupt as is seen in “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle,” from 1992.

“The Hand That Rocks the Cradle” begins with Claire Bartel (played by Annabella Sciorra), who is pregnant with her second child, going to a doctor’s appointment where her obstetrician, Dr. Mott, sexually assaults her. To protect other patients from his kind of abuse, Claire files a complaint and shortly after, several other people file similar complaints about the same doctor. He commits suicide, and his pregnant wife (played by Rebecca De Mornay) has a miscarriage, in part because of the trauma the entire situation has triggered for her. Months later, Mrs. Mott learns that the Bartels are advertising for a nanny to take care of their new baby and its older sister. To get the job, she lies about who she is and says her name is Peyton Flanders. The Bartels think their new nanny is perfect, but of course, she is not. Claire’s friend, Marlene (played by Julianne Moore), is somewhat suspicious and warns Claire to be careful.

“The Hand That Rocks the Cradle” is very well directed by Curtis Hanson. He does a good job of creating suspense and terror, especially near the end.

Annabella Sciorra is strong as Claire. She creates a heroine who is sympathetic as she loves her husband and kids. Equally impressive is Ernie Hudson. He plays a mentally challenged man who is building a fence for the Bartels. Rebecca De Mornay offers the film’s finest performance. She makes a great villain who finds many ways to torture the unsuspecting family she blames for her husband’s death and the erosion of her privileged lifestyle.

“The Hand That Rocks the Cradle” is a solid choice for fans of thrillers.