We’re away until January 3, but we’re reposting some of our favorite pieces from 2016. Enjoy your holiday!
The Hand That Rocks the Cradle looks more prescient than ever.
When the director and screenwriter Curtis Hanson passed away last month, at the age of seventy-one, obituary writers agreed he’d be remembered longest for his 1997 James Ellroy adaptation, L.A. Confidential. It’s easy to see why L.A. Confidential gets all the love, with its balletic rhythms, its crafted-yet-earnest performances from Guy Pearce and Russell Crowe, and the beatific fatalism of its third-act plot twist reflected in the eyes of a dying Kevin Spacey. But my favorite Curtis Hanson moment comes from a film he made five years earlier, barely mentioned in his obits: The Hand That Rocks the Cradle.
In it, a stay-at-home mom played by Annabella Sciorra barges into the nursery of a house for sale and gasps in horrified recognition at something she sees on the shelf. “That’s a strange-looking toy,” says the male real-estate agent showing her the house. It’s not a toy at all, of course. It’s a breast pump—the perfect third-act reveal for what is perhaps Hollywood’s only entry in the subgenre of breast-feeding noir.