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Opening Night

Opening Night (1977)



Average Rating: 7.8/10
Reviews Counted: 21
Fresh: 20 | Rotten: 1

Opening Night is as dense and difficult as one would expect from John Cassavetes, but even the director's detractors will be unable to deny the power of Gena Rowlands' performance.

No Score Yet...

Average Rating: N/A
Critic Reviews: 4
Fresh: 4 | Rotten: 0

Opening Night is as dense and difficult as one would expect from John Cassavetes, but even the director's detractors will be unable to deny the power of Gena Rowlands' performance.



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Average Rating: 4.1/5
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Movie Info

John Cassavetes' Opening Night stars Gena Rowlands (Mrs. Cassavetes) as end-of-tether Broadway actress Myrtle Gordon. She is about to open in a play written by her old friend Sarah Goode (Joan Blondell), but a series of pre-show setbacks and disasters threaten to destroy not only the production but Myrtle's sanity. The actress is especially rattled when one of her staunchest fans dies in an accident. In the face of bleak reality, just how important is the old "show must go on" ethic? Supporting



John Cassavetes

Jun 29, 1998

Faces Distributing Corporation

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All Critics (23) | Top Critics (5) | Fresh (20) | Rotten (1) | DVD (4)

Gena Rowlands turns in another virtuoso performance as the troubled actress. Cassavetes' highly personal work will please his coterie of enthusiasts, but for general audiences it will be viewed as shrill, puzzling, depressing and overlong.

July 28, 2008 Full Review Source: Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

John Cassavetes was unique in his visions and his films.

July 28, 2008
Hollywood Reporter
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Juggling onstage and offstage action, Cassavetes makes this a fascinating look at some of the internal mechanisms and conflicts that create theatrical fiction.

July 28, 2008 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

At once a lament to the ravages of age and an examination of those tiny foibles which separate reality from dramatic artifice, it's a baffling and intricate film which, although light on conventional pleasures, still manages to provoke and beguile.

January 26, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The scenes in which Myrtle consults first one and then another spiritualist are typical of Cassavetes's genius in filming madness.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Intriguing but enigmatic backstage theater melodrama with shades of All About Eve.

September 11, 2008 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

The unpredictability of Rowlands' character brings one surprise after another to the narrative as the other characters scramble to accommodate or cajole her, and the surprises are often as funny as they are intensely dramatic.

August 11, 2008

As per usual it features a superb cast, including the ever-present Gena Rowlands, who successfully improvise their way the film.

July 28, 2008 Full Review Source: Empire Magazine
Empire Magazine

As densely layered and difficult as anything else Cassavetes ever directed, as dense as any American film from the 1970s.

June 23, 2008 Full Review Source: Antagony & Ecstasy
Antagony & Ecstasy

the film is almost suffocatingly long, even though its ideas about actors, acting and real life are among Cassavetes's most intriguing.

June 15, 2007 Full Review Source: This is London
This is London

As you might expect, coming from indie godfather John Cassavetes, 1977's Opening Night is something else, a weird, raw, ragged portrait of an actress on the verge of a

June 15, 2007 Full Review Source: Total Film
Total Film

The film of the week is 30 years old and hasn't aged a day. It's John Cassavetes's Opening Night, a truly mesmerising study of anxiety and identity crisis in theatreland.

June 15, 2007 Full Review Source: Daily Telegraph
Daily Telegraph

Woody Allen said that he could watch a Bergman movie and feel himself gripped as if by a thriller; that's how I felt watching this restored version of John Cassavetes's 1977 picture Opening Night

June 15, 2007 Full Review Source: Guardian [UK]
Guardian [UK]

The camerawork is instinctively fluid, the performances savage - this is one of the best films about theatre ever made.

June 15, 2007 Full Review Source: Times [UK]
Times [UK]

Opening Night is a truly grand unveiling of our innermost fears.

June 15, 2007 Full Review Source: BBC

Another of Cassavetes' puzzling, personal, neurotic, and often brilliant productions that would have benefited from editing with a scythe.

August 30, 2006 Full Review Source: TV Guide's Movie Guide
TV Guide's Movie Guide

Rowlands sings a different kind of mad song in Opening Night, playing a diva-like actress preparing a part about aging that haunts her, at times literally, with a vision of lost youth.

February 14, 2005 Full Review Source: AV Club
AV Club

Opening Night is a film so ambitious that it's hard to imagine anyone less accomplished and passionate than John Cassavetes even attempting it.

May 24, 2003 Full Review Source: Film4

Audience Reviews for Opening Night

a mesmerizing film about the theater and aging, akin to 'all about eve' in many ways. knockout performance by gena rowlands in the bette davis role. extra star for joan blondell driving a trans am. one of cassavetes' very best
February 16, 2013
Stella Dallas

Super Reviewer

It was once suggested by Pauline Kael, never a fan, that Cassavetes thought not like a director, but like an actor. What Kael meant was that he lacked sophistication as a filmmaker; to take that comparison further, to me, it never feels like Cassavetes is directing himself in a film, it feels like Cassavetes implanting himself inside his own creation, like Orson Welles. Opening Night is about the mystery of becoming, performing, and acting. Like a haunted Skip James record, it's got the echoes of ghosts all around. Gena Rowlands' breakdowns, which are stupefying and almost operatic, surprising coming from Cassavetes, are accompanied by a jumpy, unsettling piano. It's also refreshing to see some plot points -- Who is this dead girl? The metaphysical possibilities are endless, and it's amazing to find this kind of thing in a Cassavetes film. This is not Adaptation; here, the blending of reality and fiction and drama is not to show cleverness but to show the inner turmoil and confusion it creates.

There's so much going on here. The pure, joyous love when Rowlands greets her doorman; the horror when she beats herself up... The scene where the girl talks about how she devoted her life to art and to music is one of the most effective demonstrations of understanding what it means to be a fan of someone. You can see some roots of this in A Star Is Born, and Almodovar borrowed from it for All About My Mother. I think the ending is a little bit of a disappointment in its ambiguity because of the laughing fits, but the preparation leading up to it is almost sickening. (Also, I think it's worth mentioning that I don't think this film is about alcoholism -- despite its urgency in many of the scenes, it's a relatively small point about the film.)

It's a living, breathing thing, and it feels like a process: it could go any direction at any time. Like Taste of Cherry, we are reminded that "you must never forget this is only a play." Yet it is dangerous: when Rowlands says that line, is it great drama? How will the audience take it? Is she being reflexive or does she just not care? Her (character's) breakdowns are incorporated into the performances, and ultimately the film, in such a way that it's like witnessing a female James Dean. Yet another stellar collaboration between Rowlands and Cassavetes.
January 12, 2013
Jonathan Hutchings

Super Reviewer

Cassavetes is probably the coolest filmmaker of all time. His films are like having a whiskey and a cigar in some quiet little jazz club somewhere. This cast is to die for, Rowlands, Gazzara, Blondell and Cassavetes are brilliant. The improvisation isn't always on the ball and although I enjoyed the 'blink and you'll miss them' cameos, I would have liked to have seen more of Falk and Cassel but that's just a small niggle I have really, this is another fantastic film from Cassavetes.
October 2, 2009

Super Reviewer

Cassavetes gritty feeling blends well with backstage drama. Gena Rowlands is great wonderfully backed by Joan Blondell in one of her best latter day performances.
April 22, 2008
jay nixon

Super Reviewer

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