On Oct. 23, 1989, a Boston man, Charles Stuart, claimed that his pregnant wife, Carol, had been shot in the head by a robber. The Stuarts were white, and Charles said his wife’s killer was black; the horrific crime inflamed racial tensions throughout Boston. It was later proven that Stuart himself had committed the murder.
Although Ken Olin (thirtysomething) is the ostensible star as Charles Stuart, the filmmakers recognize that there’s no way to build their movie around him-he’s the villain of this piece. The movie offers as its heroes two apparently fictionalized reporters for an unnamed Boston newspaper. As played by Margaret Colin (Legwork) and B.D. Wong (Broadway’s M. Butterfly), they’re shown piecing together the truth, exposing Stuart as a liar who killed Carol for the insurance money.
Good Night is slowed by flashbacks in which Stuart remembers happier times with his wife as well as melodramatic scenes in which he tries — and fails — to hire someone to kill her. Then too, Colin, a good actress, is burdened with a lot of trite tough-guy dialogue (”If that guy calls me a girl one more time, I’ll turn him into a boy soprano!”). The movie becomes so mired in its fact- based details that the second hour begins to crawl.
The most interesting thing about Good Night, Sweet Wife is its depiction of the way Stuart’s lie about his black attacker tapped into many people’s racism and anger over senseless street crimes. This sordid case has been turned into an earnest but ultimately tiresome cautionary tale about the evils of prejudice. C