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A book illustrator's suspicions about her husband's fidelity lead to obsessive behavior in "Irresistible," an awkward suspenser from Down Under. Pic flirts with Hitchcockian touches, but inappropriate application of techniques fails narrative's specific needs.

With: Susan Sarandon, Sam Neill, Emily Blunt, Bud Tingwell, William McInnes, Georgie Parker.

A book illustrator’s suspicions about her husband’s fidelity lead to obsessive behavior in “Irresistible,” an awkward suspenser from Down Under. Pic flirts with Hitchcockian touches, but inappropriate application of techniques fails narrative’s specific needs. Despite pedigree of thesps Susan Sarandon, Sam Neill and “The Devil Wears Prada’s” Emily Blunt, negative expectations due to delayed release are expected to kill off Oz B.O. Stateside, pic went straight to DVD last April.

Recuperating from the recent death of her mother, New Yorker turned Melbournian, children’s book illustrator Sophie Hartley (Sarandon) is suffering from a creative block. While she dotes on her tweener daughters, Sophie’s creative issues are straining her marriage to successful architect Craig (Neill).

Further jeopardizing the relationship is the arrival of Craig’s luscious new IT consultant Mara (Emily Blunt). Recalling Rebecca De Mornay’s babysitter in “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle,” Mara flirts with both Craig and Sophie at a party clearly signaling her intention to infiltrate their lives.

Prompted by a series of disturbing coincidences, Sophie begins to suspect hubby of having an affair. As her uncertainty mounts, Sophie takes increasing risks including stalking the IT ingenue and breaking into her home.

Pic liberally lifts themes (and shots) from Hitchcock classics like “Vertigo” and “Suspicion,” with nods to “Gaslight” and pics of similar ilk. While yarn is no more ridiculous than some of Hitchcock’s stories, Ann Turner’s otherwise competent helming lacks the required momentum to disguise lapses in logic.

Opening reels desperately throw out a scare every few seconds, but malevolent atmosphere seems forced and rushed. On the whole Ken Sallows’ editing is expert, but occasional awkward narrative jolts and a “Psycho”-flavored finale that feels imposed, creates an impression of latter-day reckless tinkering.

Sarandon’s established strong screen persona undermines her credibility as a brittle woman on the edge. Blunt slightly overplays her hand as the temptress, but Neill gives his typically assured and layered perf as the husband.

Despite the occasional editing patch-up, tech credits are good quality.

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Production: A Palace Films Distribution release of an Intandem Films presentation of a Cascade Films, Take Partnership Film production, in association with Film Finance Corp. Australia, Baker Street, Kennedy Mellor, Australian Film Commission, Film Victoria, and Palace Films. (International sales: Intandem Films, London.) Produced by David Parker, Tatiana Kennedy, Franziska Wagenfeld. Executive producers, Bill Allan, Billy Hurman, Ivan MacTaggart, Peter Maggi, Gary Smith, Sue Maslin. Directed, written by Ann Turner.

Crew: Camera (color), Martin McGrath; editor, Ken Sallows; music, David Hirschfelder; production designer, Kim Buddee; costume designer, Angus Strathie; sound, (Dolby Digital) Lloyd Carrick. Reviewed at Screening Room B, Fox Studios, Oct. 6, 2006. Running time: 102 MIN.

With: With: Susan Sarandon, Sam Neill, Emily Blunt, Bud Tingwell, William McInnes, Georgie Parker.

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