Andy Safian (Bill Pullman), an English professor, and his wife Tracy (Nicole Kidman), recently married, have bought a new house. Short of money, they take in a lodger, Dr. Jed Hill (Alec Baldwin), a surgeon who went to high school with Andy. Tracy suffers from mysterious abdominal pains and then has to have emergency surgery when an ovarian cyst ruptures. Jed Hill performs the surgery. He finds that her other ovary appears necrotic and removes it. It later turns out to have been healthy.

Tracy sues for malpractice and receives a huge settlement. She then leaves her husband, who gradually realizes that she and the surgeon had been lovers and that he has been the victim of their complex con game: she has sacrificed her fertility and Dr. Hill his career in exchange for the millions of dollars paid out by the hospital's insurance company. Andy sets about seeking revenge.


A thriller of domestic intrigue in the Hitchcock tradition, this film is of particular interest because of its reliance on the stereotype of the surgeon: power hungry, sexually voracious, ruthless, charismatic, and ultimately amoral. The fraud plot itself relies on the same stereotype: the claims against Jed work as well as they do because he plays his role to the hilt, culminating in a scene in which, after being accused by Tracy's lawyer of having a "God complex," he declares, "I am God."

Tracy's husband, the English professor, is the surgeon's antithesis, the mild-mannered and caring teacher who becomes the innocent suspect in a serial rape investigation (a subplot used largely to throw up red herrings) but eventually, doggedly, exacts revenge on his wife and her lover. At one point, Andy and Jed have a conversation about whether or not they'd be willing to sacrifice a body part (in this case, a finger) for a million dollars. Tracy really does make this sacrifice, her ovaries for a fortune, and this, in the context of the rape investigation and the female police detective who becomes Andy's confidante, could be fertile material for discussion.

Primary Source

MGM / United Artists