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Because the material is fundamentally undramatic (no intrigue, no action, no climaxes), director Mike Nichols has little to do but concentrate on the naturalism of its presentation, on which point he succeeds well enough: the extreme long takes create the kind of theatrical space he is most comfortable with, and his direction of ensemble dialogue finds some authentic-seeming off-rhythms. But Meryl Streep's performance strikes a blaringly false note. Hiding once again behind her accent, hairdo, and mannerisms, she fails to establish any emotional contact with the audience, a serious problem in a film that depends on audience sympathy for its impact. Little remains in this true-life story of a nuclear worker's mysterious death other than some prefab antinuke, profeminist rhetoric—soft-pedaled, thankfully, but still strong enough to testify to the basic smugness of the project. With Kurt Russell and Cher.

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