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Film / Mrs. Winterbourne

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Mrs. Winterbourne is a 1996 American romantic comedy-drama film directed by Richard Benjamin, starring Shirley MacLaine, Ricki Lake, and Brendan Fraser. It is loosely based on Cornell Woolrich's novel I Married a Dead Man, which has already been adapted to film as No Man of Her Own (1950), and the Hindi film Kati Patang (1970).

Connie Doyle (Lake) is kicked out by her lowlife boyfriend Steve (Loren Dean) after getting pregnant, and ends up on a train where she is rescued by the friendly couple of Hugh Winterbourne (Fraser) and his also pregnant wife, Patricia. Tragedy strikes when the train suddenly crashes, killing Hugh and Patricia; however, Connie is mistaken for Patricia. With no money and zero connections, Connie decides to don the identity.

She finds out the Winterbourne family is loving and caring, especially Hugh's mother, Grace (MacLaine), who had never met Patricia before, and Hugh's identical twin brother Bill (also played by Fraser), and she lives a rather happy life until Steve comes back to her life and starts blackmailing her.

This film features examples of:

  • Blackmail: Either Connie gives Steve money or he'll spill the beans about her identity. Of course, this is just a way to trick her into meeting up with him to force her into a worse scheme — pretending to kidnap Hughie, ransoming him back. If Connie goes to the police, Steve will use the check as proof that Connie approached him with the idea.
  • Caper Rationalization: Connie justifies impersonating Patricia on the basis that she needs to provide for her son and that knowing her real unborn grandchild died could be a fatal blow to Hugh's ailing mother.
  • Cover Identity Anomaly: Connie tries to convince her doctors that she isn't Patricia Winterbourne, but they think she's just confused because of the train crash she survived. The Winterbourne family then takes her in (having never met Patricia and thus never knowing what she looked like). She decides to go along with it because she's penniless and has a newborn baby in tow, but she makes a lot of simple mistakes about Hugh.
  • Kill the Cutie: Hugh and Patricia die in a train crash after being established as generous people and Happily Married expectant parents.
  • Lighter and Softer: The original novel I Married a Dead Man is a complex Psychological Thriller, while this film adaptation is a Romantic Comedy.
  • Mistaken Identity: Connie and the real Patricia Winterbourne were both in the same train (and both pregnant) when the train derailed. Conveniently, Connie had put on Patricia's wedding ring, and Patricia was holding Connie's handbag when she was tossed outside. The authorities then thought that Connie was Patricia.
  • Out-of-Character Alert: This happens constantly to Connie as she tries to pretend to be Patricia: she didn't know that Hugh had a brother, signs her real name when trying out a pen (Bill is the only one to witness this), etc. The family think this is just a result of the train accident, but Bill is the only one that figures out that Patricia isn't really Patricia. But he doesn’t care.
  • Precision F-Strike: When two snooty Rich Bitches take digs at Connie as Patricia, this exchange happens:
    Connie: [shoving them aside] Oh, fuck off.
    Grace: [following directly behind Connie] You heard her. Fuck off.
  • Rags to Riches: Connie is a young unwed mother, but after a train accident, she is mistaken for the wife of a man from a well-off family. The family takes Connie in and she continues the ruse. (See Caper Rationalization)
  • Romancing the Widow: Bill falls for Connie believing her to be his brother's widow and tries to romance her, but she rejects him because of her false identity.
  • Spared By Adaptation: Grace dies of a heart attack after falsely confessing to Steve’s murder in the novel, but survives in this film adaptation.
  • Sympathetic Murderer: Steve's new girlfriend Renee kills him in a rage when he gets her pregnant and abandons her. Having been in a similar situation, Connie sympathizes with her and offers to get her a good lawyer.