On May 9, 1994, film-maker Tessa Blake received a million dollar trust fund from her father; six months later she returned with a movie camera.
"Five Wives" etc. is a fascinating and bravely personal documentary that will be loved by any fans of the genre. It echoes McElwee's "Sherman's March" in its dissection of southern mores and gender roles. But in her examination of her larger-than-life father -- an oft-married Houston multi-millionaire now in his 70s -- film-maker Tessa Blake's inquiry into her unusual extended family reaches much deeper than even McElwee would dare to tread. Numerous interviews with family friends provide lots of humor, whether or not one is familiar with the milieu, but the film achieves more in it's second half as Blake dares to question herself and her father about the sometimes painful differences between them (mostly centering around Tessa's then-boyfriend, an African-American). A former debutante, the attractive and intelligent Blake is close enough to her subject matter to know exactly where to strike, but it is done so with the loving hand of a daughter who obviously cherishes and respects being her daddy's little girl. The exchange in the final five minutes between Tessa and "Blakie" offers better, more intense and heartfelt drama than a decade's worth of TV-movies and chick flicks.
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