A portrait of domestic turmoil detailing the emotional breakdown of a suburban housewife and her family’s struggle to save her from herself. A married couple so deeply in love but unable to express their ardor in terms the other can understand.
This film is not currently playing on MUBI but 30 other great films are. See what’s now showing
Feel this film, for cryin' out loud. Let it kick you in the gut. To attempt to intellectualize, deconstruct or define a film such as this (or its characters, for that matter) is like using trigonometry to understand improvisational jazz. If you didn't get this film, you haven't watched it enough times. Put simply, "A Woman Under the Influence" is why I make films.
A very emotional experience. A biting work of art that rails against the oppression women face by men, the family, & society as well as how men repeat cycles of oppression even when they think they're trying to stop it. Rowlands & Falk are acting legends. Cassavettes, one of the realest auteurs of cinema. Authentic to the bone. One of the best of the 70s & ever. A milestone in independent film. Saw it at MOMA on film
What's that quote about adjustment to a sick society being no measure of health? An indictment, I'd guess personal, of a culture that demands the performance of "normal" and has an arsenal of social pressures to enforce it. Cassavetes' casual-seeming camerawork & sound make for a heavy, almost voyeuristic realism (as does the slow-burn narrative, but with a price paid in run-time). Rowlands & Falk are extraordinary.
A familiar drama led by an outstanding performance by Gena Rowlands: Maple is a very complex and psychologically unstable woman and you can see how her facial expressions, body language and tone of voice reflect that emotional roller coaster. The supporting cast is also great, and you do feel a bit drained watching this dysfunctional family. Those poor kids, they will be so messed-up as adults!
Film students can be such idiots, or at least I was, for finding this too loose and vague. With age, this is a true masterpiece, an emotional gauntlet, and a complex, epic family portrait. Rowlands' mania is exacerbated by Falk, who's monstrous, but a very human monster created by pressure. Both keep hanging on, for those rare moments where it seems like they might really make a happy family after all. Shattering.
What's so remarkable about Gena is that she takes the opposite point of view about the actor and the role. Most actors will say that it's a role where they incorporate parts of themselves, but ultimately it's not really them. Gena says it's like revealing the most intimate aspects of your life. Which is probably why she's so damn good. And Peter Falk is no slouch either.
Cassavetes created one of the most indelible portraits of mental illness and its effect on the family in this '74 film. Rowlands performance here was extraordinary as was Falk. A mother barely hanging on to reality and a brute of a husband unable to understand the depths of her sickness unwittingly adding to the problem. Growing up in a household like this, this is a difficult watch but an authentic portrayal.
While this is an emotionally disturbing movie to watch, it is also very powerful and rewarding. Cassavetes compellingly captures the impact of Mabel's meltdown on the whole family. Both of the leads are superb: Gena Rowlands as the increasingly emotionally fragile Mabel and Peter Falk as her loving but terribly frustrated husband.