Leave Her to Heaven

In repertory at Film Forum through March 12.

As femmes fatales go, Ellen Berent is rather pitiful. She’s charming and seductive and ultimately murderous, yes, but she has the foresight and impulse control of a six-year-old. Her extreme immaturity gives a different spin to a familiar archetype (aren’t such femmes usually coolly calculating and shrewd?), but it also dooms Leave Her to Heaven to giggle-inducing melodrama (with the notable exception of one genuinely chilling scene). Ellen is simply too childish and incompetent to take seriously as a villain, and by extension, those taken in by her transparent scheming and infantile tantrums are also impossible to take seriously. The histrionics are fun in a campy sort of way—particularly the bizarre climactic court scene, in which Vincent Price chews the scenery to a fine pulp—but the movie still feels rather slight. Over-the-top Electra complexes are less interesting than you might think.