FILMS… Masquerade (1988)



Please, please let it be love…


A super rich girl meets a handsome yacht captain and they fall in love as things then go full tilt neo-noir.


Masquerade (1988) Trailer, Another Intentions AND PHOTOS © MGM/UA  Communications Co


Recently I watched a favourite neo-noir film, which may or may not have been reviewed on my blog. So this is not officially a spoiler as I won’t tell you what it is. It’s one where a working class man marries and then assists in the murder of his upper class rich wife. This murder comes after she makes his dream come true with a wee bit of help from her generosity (and bank balance), and she has his dream house built. Then after her death, he realises just how much he loves her, but it’s too late, as it’s hinted he’s realised that madly in love with her on the day she dies.

Being a total romantic, this film has one of many film endings that I want to change to a more happy one where true love wins the day. It’s been added to a list of films including Somewhere in Time (1980) and Atonement (2007) where I love the film, but I hate the ending. And another film from that category is this film, Masquerade (1988), a surprising neo-noir from the post-Brat Pack times.

Masquerade tells of a young handsome man, Tim Whalen (Rob Lowe, at his most boyishly handsome)   – with a past imperfect – who is a racing captain and skipper in Southampton, in the Hamptons on Long Island. He’s having a fling with Brooke Morrison (Kim Cattrall), the pretty young wife of his boss. Then everything changes for him after he meets a super-rich orphan and recent graduate, Olivia Lawrence (Meg Tilly) who has just returned to her home in Southampton due to her mother’s recent death.

As Olivia returns, we also learn that the local cop, Mike McGill (Doug Savant) has had a more than obvious crush on Olivia since their childhood. Soon after he sees her, he makes his move and proposes marriage. But Olivia puts Mike firmly in the friend zone.

This super-rich young lady has apparently only one thorn in her side. She has to live with her always drunk and verbally abusive stepfather, Tony Gateworth (John Glover), as her late mother wanted this. Since her mother’s death, Tony’s new girlfriend, Anne Briscoe (Dana Delany) has also moved in.

After Tim and Olivia meet at a dance, then Tim arranges a date to go out with her on her yacht – named Masquerade – Darlin Husband shouts title drop – as they both love sailing. This date leads to a romance which annoys Brooke. Her stepfather warns Olivia that Tim is after her money and Tony and Tim hate each other on sight. But Olivia believes it’s true love for her and Tim. She believes that he doesn’t want her money (and so do I, but Darlin Husband isn’t convinced) and he loves her despite her millions.

However, then my dream of a happy love story is threatened. Tim meets with Tony and then tells him he’s not keen on murdering Olivia. Tony threatens to tell Olivia about his past. Tony suggests that they show Olivia just how much they hate each other by Tim sticking up for her in a staged fight with Tony later that evening.

However that night, Tim shoots Tony dead after Tony turns up at her bedroom door drunk and is abusive towards Olivia. Olivia insists on taking the blame for Tony’s murder stating she will tell the police that it was self-defence and that Tim was not there at the time of the murder. But despite this, the evidence found by Mike after the shooting shows she wasn’t alone. He later learns that Olivia is dating Tim. Yet Mike hides this evidence to protect Olivia.

However, Tony’s girlfriend, Anne suggests to the police that they talk to Tim… But Tim has an alibi, but this is because he visited Brooke in the wee small hours after the murder and then changed the time on her alarm clock to protect himself. Then after Anne is found murdered, with a suspicious suicide note… Tim tells Olivia about his dodgy past and breaks up with Brooke, and he marries Olivia after she proposes…

I loved this thrilling neo-noir and mystery movie. I had only seen the ending previously, and the whole film exceeded all my expectations. The neo-noir plot has you questioning a new husband’s motives after marrying a rich orphan. I could easily recast it with a noir cast of actors from an earlier film version. And this thought concurred with Roger Ebert HERE who after seeing this film in 1988 said this of the movie…

Like both of those films, it has its roots in the crime melodramas of the 1940s, when movies were about attractive victims, rather than attractive killers. The notion of placing a complete innocent at the center of the frame, and then surrounding her with menace, is a little old-fashioned…

The casting of the always naive and innocent looking Meg Tilly who starred in The Big Chill (1983) – as the yoga loving and once troubled, dead man’s girlfriend, Chloe. The then Brat Pack dream pinup, Lowe brings a 1980s ambience, charm and charisma to this story. This description from the LA Times dates it to that time,

Tilly turns in a grown-up performance that marks a turning point in her career. Paired with Rob Lowe, who plays a Calvin Klein-perfect gigolo…

Rob Lowe plays his character Tim so naturally and genially, that you would find it difficult to believe that he’s married Olivia for her money. He has a sweet and honest side to his character seen in scenes with Tilly, and their love story seems more honest and credible in later scenes.

Tim’s love for Olivia is reinforced in his scene with Tony where it seems Tim has fallen in love with his intended victim. Tim states emphatically that he does not wish to murder her. However, it’s after he shoots and kills Tony, that this hints at his possible duplicitous role in this film. Has he killed to keep his secret safe or double-crossed Tony to get the lion’s share of Olivia’s inheritance?

A third conspirator who apparently worked with Tony and Tim in their plot to get Olivia’s money is revealed later in the film. This third character threatens Olivia and Tim’s happiness in a series of unexpected twists and turns as seen later in the film. But the who, what, where, when, how and why of their motives, I’ll let you discover for yourself.

As you ponder on these characters, their motives and the plotlines you’ll wonder more about the enigmatic title of this film. This film takes us to a masquerade – and not just talking about the name of Olivia’s yacht here – which started even before this film began. So who can Olivia trust… and love, and be loved for herself and not for her money, without questioning their motives?


Weeper Rating: 😦 😦😦😦😦 😦 😦😦/10

Handsqueeze Rating:  🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 /10

Hulk Rating:  0 /10


Cinema Shame 2022, October

This post was added as my June entry for Cinema Shame 2022. Other films with this cast include Rob Lowe in About Last Night, Class, Oxford Blues, The Austin Powers films and St Elmo’s Fire. Meg Tilly in The Big Chill.  Kim Cattrall in My Boy Jack and Mannequin. Doug Savant in Knots Landing, Columbo, The X Files and Hotel. John Glover in White Nights, Scrooged, Murder She Wrote and The Ray Bradbury Theatre. Dana Delany in Moonlighting and Magnum PI.


15 thoughts on “FILMS… Masquerade (1988)

  1. I could have sworn that I’d seen this film many years ago, but I definitely would have remembered the neo-noir plot and stellar supporting cast. It’s possible that I rented the VHS just for Meg Tilly (who’s great!) but just couldn’t stomach the Rob Loweness of it all. Too bad; this sounds like fun, with a fabulous ending.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve never heard of masquerade, but I am very intrigued after listening to your review, Gill!

    The cast sounds perfect, especially Rob Lowe! From your description, it could be one of his better roles!

    Liked by 1 person

    • “I take it you have seen her in The Big Chill…”

      Oh, YES! And Tex (1982) and Psycho II (1983), and even One Dark Night (1983). She is also the best thing about Agnes of God (1985) and The Two Jakes (1990).

      Liked by 1 person

    • Psycho II (1983): A surprisingly well-crafted sequel. Sure, it goes without saying that this is nowhere near as good as Hitchcock’s masterpiece, but it’s a logical continuation to the story. It does lack humor, and there is some unnecessary gore, but it’s a good movie. As a matter of fact, I think Perkins is even better the second time around, and he has wonderful rapport with Tilly. That said, I thought Psycho III (1986) was better, but not many people agree with me.

      Agnes of God (1985): I’m not a religious person, so I liked it for the acting. Jane Fonda, Anne Bancroft and Tilly make a stunning trio. Tilly, in particular, is unforgettable in the title role. It would make a great double-feature with Meryl Streep’s Doubt (2008).

      The Two Jakes (1990): Underrated sequel to Chinatown (1974). It’s not a continuation of the previous movie, it’s more like an epilogue to the 1974 masterpiece. Not perfect, but it is an interesting movie. Tilly is wonderful as an enigmatic femme fatale. I do recommend you to rewatch Chinatown before watching the sequel — it can be confusing if you don’t remember the original.

      BTW, Tilly has a YouTube channel where she talks about her movies and writing career.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Eric, these are fab. I read about the second two films in a couple of biographies of Norman Jewison and Jack Nicholson respectively and had mentally added them to the to watch list . As for the first I am supertempted.. I did love Perkins in North Sea Hijack.

      Liked by 1 person

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