I don’t condone violence. However…
Once Upon a Crime is a movie, and I understand no actors were actually harmed in the filming of this ‘who’s who of who-done-its’.
Meet Neil Schwary (James Belushi). Dismissive, ignorant, arrogant. The ‘ugly American’ (as he’s touted in the trailer) in this tour de force set in Monte Carlo shares his crude charms with anyone who crosses his path, but his favourite target is his wife, Marilyn (Cybill Shepherd).
Easy to imagine that Neil and Marilyn’s romance began as any other. Enchanted, Neil wooed Marilyn into a lifelong dance, and so wooed, she accepted, both believing their happily-ever-after had arrived.
Over time, patterns emerge. One takes advantage over the other, and in the interest of peace and harmony, the slighted lets the insult slide. Forgiveness is mistaken for permission and soon, the relationship that once held promise has become a power play, with the defending team under the thumb of the offender.
The last straw (snub, slap of disrespect, dislocating punch to the jaw) can come at any time, anywhere. Even in a luxury hotel in Monte Carlo where fireworks can be seen from your balcony, where you have your choice of designer gowns in the closet. It doesn’t help matters when your husband loses your life savings at the casino and brings home a beat up suitcase as a consolation prize. Matters only get worse when >>spoiler alert<< said beat up suitcase contains a dead body.
Marilyn, understandably, freaks out. And by freaks out, I mean she screams loudly and often, so you may want to adjust the volume before watching the clip.
Desperate to keep the situation under control, Neil literally stifles Marilyn’s voice. This scene is critical in Marilyn’s, and ultimately Neil’s, growth. In order for these characters to grow, Marilyn needs to recover her voice, and Neil needs to accept one small change:
Marilyn will kneel before Neil no longer.
Beneath the humour in this scene I find a poignant message. A strong woman may sacrifice, a strong woman may appease and make nice and put herself last. But, as Neil discovers, a strong woman will never be silenced.