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Peter Falk is a blue collar man trying to deal with his wife's mental instability. He fights to keep a semblance of normality in the face of her bizarre behavior, but when her actions affect their children, he has her committed. Written by
BA Jacobson <email@example.com>
Cassavetes's absorbing look at the nature of marriage; Falk and Rowlands are spellbinding
While John Cassavetes is (rightly) revered for this film and other under his belt, wife/key-star Gena Rowlands is the most fascinating and emotionally gripping part to this work, Woman Under the Influence. Her role as Mabel was perfect in a film that sometimes was not even as it just tried for suburban truth. I was constantly curious about where her character was headed, and even more so by how I did not feel any desire at all to pass judgment on her. The moment I would have thought to myself "well, she's too nuts to like" the film would be ruined for me. And that is one of the more intelligent points to the film that Cassavetes gets at.
This is, after all, a character-based film, with story merely in the background. And with his two main characters we get a look at what has been a stereotype for centuries- men are often brutal and stupid, women are crazy. In this filmmakers world, it's just not that black and white, however, but with the grays as pronounced as the highs and lows in a melodrama; it's just the way he sees things, and it's a unique way as well, where the soul and choice are the precedents over comfy dramatic circumstance.
I loved the use of the camera in many scenes, how it felt like they just shot and shot and went from one spot in the house to the next, uncertain but knowing how to observe and look. In fact, the whole film has the feel of a documentary, with the occasional dramatic touch such as a close-up. But what turns it into being something special is that Cassavetes understands that Falk, Rowlands and the others can take his script and make it their own, very personally so. And as it happens, Falk finds some of his most daring work here as Nick, a character who in his own way has become as nuts as Mabel with the everyday grind of living (which for both of them is filled with people, talk, pure humanity).
For those who don't like the easy solutions in dramas, or want to know the basics of the post-modern independent film movement, this is for you. It might seem to drag in spots, but it seems to be even more enveloping if one gives it the time to contemplate over those 'drag' moments.
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