Desolation Sound

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Starring Hélíƒ ¨ne Joy, Jennifer Beals, and Ed Begley Jr. Rated PG.

There's some dumb, airport-novel fun in this earnestly overripe thriller about a rural B.C. woman (Hélíƒ ¨ne Joy) whose life unravels with the arrival of an old pal with ill-concealed hots for hubby. The results involve murder (or is it suicide?) and a really dumb cover-up.

The Australian-born Joy gets to show off a variety of attractive colours as Laurel, a would-be artist and single mom to a dangerously sleepwalking daughter (Emily Hirst). They are languishing in backwoods isolation-actually the Sunshine Coast seen through a blue-filter lens-as her photographer husband (an under?used Ian Tracey) heads off on long, rather vaguely defined trips.

When long-time friend Elizabeth Story (Jennifer Beals, in full femme-fatale mode) shows up in a cloud of cigarette smoke, there's a reckoning and a gradual personality transfer as Laurel dyes her hair, becomes a slob, and-as these characters always do when they get "liberated"-starts puffing on the tabacky too. Because it's, you know, sexy. Studies prove it.

Quebec star Lothaire Bluteau has a memorably outsized part as an oddball ex-con (he's into head scarves and carving weird wooden dolls) who's reluctantly drawn into the proceedings. And Ed Begley Jr. plays it straight as a weak local cop trying to figure it all out while yielding to the heroine's suddenly aggressive allure. (Okay, she is pretty hot.) In fact, he gives director Scott Weber's portent-laden picture its only shot of gravitas, slightly upping the emotional stakes in what is otherwise a fairly empty exercise in genre exploitation. Glynis Davies, who also wrote the cliché-ridden script, plays the cop's schoolmarmish wife.