Before He Wakes (1998)

Jaclyn Smith in Before He Wakes (1998)

Stager of a Murder

After the death of her first husband, Bridget (Jaclyn Smith) returns home to her parents but shortly after meets the recently separated Ron Michaels (Timothy Carhart) who teaches gym at the school where Bridget's son is to attend. One thing leads to another with Bridget joining Ron in the church choir and then heading down the aisle as they get married. But soon Ron sees the cracks starting to show as bills don't get paid and Bridget tells him she quit her job at the bank to take another job in advertising. When he realises that Bridget is bleeding him dry and is sleeping with another guy it is only a matter of time before something snaps.

To my knowledge "Before He Wakes" doesn't say upfront that it is based on or inspired by a true story but it is based on Jerry Bledsoe's novel of the same name which is about Barbara Stager who in 1989 was convicted for murdering her husband Russell. The thing is that even if you were unaware of its true story origins you would soon become aware that it is a Black Widow movie because it does the same thing which other Black Widow movies have done. That starts with an opening scene of an emotional Bridget as her first husband dies who quickly moves on to husband number two when she meets Ron. If it had taken more time to explore their romance then maybe it would have distracted you from where it is going but by being in a rush to remarry Bridget and pile on the problems makes it too obvious.

Timothy Carhart in Before He Wakes (1998)

Now in fairness "Before He Wakes" has an interesting side and that in many ways is the destruction of Ron who goes from a happy enough guy to one who regrets marrying Bridget. The acting from Timothy Carhart really makes this side of the movie work as does the closeness his character still shares with his ex-wife having amicably agreed to call it a day on their marriage. At the same time it is also interesting to see how Bridget got away with some things such as using her friendship with people from church to secure loans, forging letters and so on whilst all the time all the stuff she has been getting up to coming back to make her life stressful. In fact it is interesting to see how the situation comes together with not only Ron becoming suspicious but Bridget becoming stressed by all her secrets.

For me the star of "Before He Wakes" is Timothy Carhart who as I said really delivers the character of a man who finds his life being destroyed by his wife's spending and the secrets which he becomes aware that she has been hiding. But then there is Jaclyn Smith and she plays Bridget in an interesting manner as whilst we have a portrait of a woman with a nefarious side with all the things she gets up to we also see how as things mount up she also struggles with all the secrets and finding a way out. These two performances make "Before He Wakes" work despite the fact that it has a familiar black widow movie style about it all.

Now in many ways this only covers the first half of "Before He Wakes" because we then having Ron's first wife trying to prove that Bridget killed Ron and intended to do so. I won't go in to detail as after the obviousness of this being a Black Widow movie it provides some interesting aspects especially when it comes to the police starting to question Bridget's story.

What this all boils down to is that "Before He Wakes" probably works best for those unaware of the details of the true story it is inspired by as then the differences don't become an issue. And as such it features two entertaining performances which do a better than average job of establishing the turmoil, stress and destruction before the crime despite it having a pretty familiar Black Widow movie style.