Successful architect Ray Reardon (Spader) has just come off a messy divorce. Though his friends push the joys of single life, Ray wants domestic bliss. Then he meets the beautiful, seemingly perfect woman Lena (Mädchen Amick) after he literally bumps into her at a party. As if by chance, they cross paths once more and move quickly from there. Soon they marry and have a baby daughter. However, Ray begins to pick up on strange things about his wife he noticed even prior to their marrying. Lena has a past life he doesn't know about, which he investigates to her displeasure. Yet the disclosure seems just a bump in the road and the couple go on to have another baby. Then events take an untoward turn, and Lena's true nature is finally revealed...
Trope examples from this film include:
- Abusive Parents: Lena claims to have them early on. Ray has doubts about this after meeting her parents, and his feelings turn out to be well-founded.
- Gold Digger It turns out Lena is one.
- Hoist by Their Own Petard: Lena. Her scheme to get Ray committed allows him to strangle her to death without legal consequence.
- Hollywood Law: Ray is committed to a mental institution when his scheming wife Lana makes him look crazy. He gets revenge by luring Lana in to visit him and killing her, proclaiming that since she's had him declared insane, he isn't legally responsible. He states, "In a year, I'll be sane again, and they'll have to let me out." It would entirely up to the psychiatrists at the institution to determine whether or not he's actually "sane" and when to release him. They may not choose to make that decision for many years, if ever. He would also still be tried, and most insanity defenses don't succeed (there is a big difference between mental illness vs. legal insanity). Statistically, people acquitted by reason of insanity tend to spend more time institutionalized than they would have in prison.
- Insanity Defense: Ray uses it, but his claims about its effectiveness are Hollywood Law.
- Twist Ending Ray, having been goaded into attacking Lena and set up to look crazy, is committed to an institution. He gets a friend to give her the message she "forgot something." After getting another inmate to distract the orderly, Ray walks away with her to explain what she forget in the plan to steal his money and run off with another man to New Zealand. Having gotten him declared mentally ill and committed, he's not legally responsible, Ray says...as he strangles her. He'll be acquitted by reason of insanity and then released when he's "cured". This is Hollywood Law, as it would likely get him locked in a mental institution for the rest of his life, assuming he in fact was acquitted.
- Was It All a Lie?? Yes. Yes it was.