Top critical review
Just see the movie and get it over with
on August 2, 2001
John Grisham has written some good novels that fall into the "bestseller potboiler" category of fiction, but this is not one of his stronger works. The premise of a high-level coverup on behalf of a nitwit Reagan-esque chief executive is promising, and oil speculators are (now, more than ever) people that we love to hate, but Grisham's execution of his story line is simply overly cliched, contrived, and plodding. Once the basic dynamic of "see Darby run, see Darby outwit her pursuers" is established early on, the story bogs down for (literally!) a couple of hundred pages. We are beaten over the head with just how clever Darby is (especially for such a Babe), and with how nasty and Machiavellian the President's henchmen are. We go from one locale to another and another, always just one step ahead of the hapless bad guys. And--not to provide too much of a spoiler here-- it turns out that the *really* bad guy bears an eerie resemblance to the late Howard Hughes!
Oh, one more thing: just how many references to we need to Darby's "long legs?" It actually might have been more refreshing and bold for Grisham to portray Darby as a plain, dumpy, but brilliant law student, but then, Julia Roberts sells more tickets at the box office, right?
And there's the crux of the matter: I think Grisham wrote this story fully intending from the beginning that this would be turned into a movie, so in terms of characters, plot, pacing, and ending, the whole affair is unabashedly Hollywood-esque. In fact, the book was made into a pitiably bad 1993 movie starring Roberts and Sam Shepard. While I can't really recommend the flick, at least you'll be done with it in a couple of hours, tops.