Nicole (Reese Witherspoon) has been through a lot. She’s recently lost her mother to cancer and in the past few months has had to adjust to living with her estranged father, Steven (William Petersen), her stepmother, Laura (Amy Brenneman), and her stepbrother, Toby (Christopher Gray). Besides the new family dynamic when it’d been just her and her mother for so long, Nicole is also adjusting to life in Seattle after having been raised in southern California, but she’s nice and pretty, and quickly makes friends with a couple of schoolmates, Margo (Alyssa Milano) and Gary (Todd Caldecott).
Margo doesn’t exactly run with the best crowd, but she’s fun and sexy, and always knows where the best parties are happening. It’s in search of a party one weekend when Margo brings Nicole to a rave, where she meets David (Mark Wahlberg). David seems very intimidating at first, but quickly put Nicole’s mind at ease with his kindness and charm, as well as his sex appeal. Nicole thinks that David is the good one among his friends, forgetting that our friends are a reflection of us.
David seems intense, interesting, patient, polite, everything a girl’s first serious boyfriend should be. The only problem is that he isn’t really any of those things. David’s intensity is obsession, his interest purely reconnaissance, his patience a facade, and his politeness a tightly-controlled veneer for his seething rage.
Although David manages to win over Nicole’s stepmother and brother, her father is instantly suspicious of him, and when David fakes a beating in order to drive a wedge between Nicole and her father, Steven’s suspicions prove to be right. By the time Nicole sees David for who he really is and decides to end things, she is in more danger from her sociopathic beau than ever. Because David isn’t the sort to just accept that it’s over. Innocent Nicole is way over her head as she realizes that she never knew David at all and that he is willing to do anything and everything to get her back, including murder.
David is every parent’s nightmare and Fear is a worst-case scenario of falling for the bad boy, but it manages to refrain from being hokey or trite. A small, but important illustration is that Nicole wasn’t just some stupid teenager into “bad boys”; David had her stepmother, stepbrother, and just about everyone but her father fooled by his empty charms. Nicole didn’t “bring this upon herself with her poor choices”; David was a predator. Set to an amazing soundtrack featuring the best of 90s post-grunge Seattle rock, Fear perfectly articulates the excitement of a first love, and the horror of that love disintegrating into something far more sinister.
I give this one 3.75 stars.