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A Dangerous Woman is a 1993 American romantic drama film directed by Stephen Gyllenhaal. The screenplay was written by his wife Naomi Foner, loosely based on the award-winning novel of the same name by Mary McGarry Morris. The feature was co-produced by Amblin Entertainment and Gramercy Pictures. It stars Debra Winger, Barbara Hershey and Gabriel Byrne. It included Gyllenhaal and Foner's two children, Jake and Maggie, who later developed acting careers.

A Dangerous Woman
A Dangerous Woman.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byStephen Gyllenhaal
Produced byNaomi Foner
Kathleen Kennedy
Screenplay byNaomi Foner
Based onA Dangerous Woman
by Mary McGarry Morris
Music byCarter Burwell
CinematographyRobert Elswit
Edited byAngelo Corrao
Harvey Rosenstock
Amblin Entertainment
Island World
Rollercoaster Productions
Distributed byGramercy Pictures
Release date
  • December 3, 1993 (1993-12-03)
Running time
102 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$1,497,222

Debra Winger was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for her performance and also won Best Actress at the Tokyo International Film Festival.[1] The film has never been released on Region 1 DVD. It was once released on video in the United Kingdom by First Independent Films.



Martha Horgan (Debra Winger) struggles to have a normal life in spite of being mentally challenged. She is fired from a job at the local dry-cleaner after accusations of stealing from the cash register. She believes the theft was done by Getso (David Strathairn), the boyfriend of her work colleague Birdie (Chloe Webb).

Depressed, Horgan returns to the home of Aunt Frances (Barbara Hershey) and discovers that a handyman, Mackey (Gabriel Byrne), has been hired to fix the porch of the main house. Aunt Frances plans to host a gala event for a local politician. Irate over her husband's affair with Frances, the politician's wife (Laurie Metcalf) had driven into the porch and damaged it.

Mackey is kind to Martha. He defends her from Getso, who bullies and insults her, and smashes the windshield on Getso's van. Martha becomes increasingly fond of Mackey as time goes on. Mackey recognizes Martha's feelings but does not take advantage of her.

One night Mackey returns drunk to Martha's home, lets himself in and proceeds to have sex with the eager Martha on her sofa. He later sleeps with Frances, who is also drunk, despondent following the gala. Her lover politician had reconciled with his wife and left with her at the end of the evening.

Mackey plans to leave as soon as he finishes the porch job, feeling guilty about being unfaithful to Martha, but Martha urges him stay and tries to seduce him. He resists at first, then succumbs, then finally rejects her and throws her out. Despondent, Martha seeks her only friend, Birdie, for comfort; she goes alone to Birdie's home. There she finds Getso, who taunts and threatens her. Feeling cornered, Martha stabs Getso repeatedly with a sandwich knife. Martha stays and tries to comfort Getso as he dies from his wounds.

Frances and Mackey seek Martha at the police station where they are informed that she is pregnant and will likely be charged with murder and spend the rest of her life in jail. They find Martha overwhelmed with guilt over what she has done and resigned to her fate. Frances, already suspicious of Getso, informs Martha that she is pregnant and that all she has to do is tell the police Getso raped her and she will be released. Martha refuses because it would be a lie but doesn't reveal that Mackey is the father of her child. Later, Mackey again urges her to lie to save her life, but Martha instead insists that Mackey must take care of their child.

A final scene set in the near future reveals that Martha was remanded to a care facility where she is allowed to have day visits. Frances, Mackey, and her child are shown taking her away for just such a visit.


Actor Role
Debra Winger Martha Horgan - Niece
Barbara Hershey Frances Beechum - Aunt
Gabriel Byrne Colin 'Mac' Mackey - Alcoholic Handyman
Laurie Metcalf Anita Bell - Steve's Wife
John Terry Steve Bell - Politician
Maggie Gyllenhaal Patsy Bell - Steve's Daughter
Jake Gyllenhaal Edward (as Jacob Gyllenhaal)
Chloe Webb Birdie Drusser - Martha's Friend
David Strathairn Getso - Petty Crook
Jan Hooks Make-up Saleslady
Richard Riehle John - Drycleaning Boss

Critical receptionEdit

Janet Maslin of The New York Times praised the film, especially Winger's acting and Gyllenhaal's direction. But, she found the film overall more akin to melodrama than drama:


  1. ^ Staff report (October 3, 1994). Winger wins with 'Dangerous Woman.' Buffalo News
  2. ^ Maslin, Janet (1993-12-03). "Movie Review - A Dangerous Woman - Review/Film; The Turning Point for a Plain Jane -". Retrieved 2011-09-13.

External linksEdit