3 Women (1977)

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Critic Consensus: 3 Women is a strange, eerie portrait of late-'70s womanhood that upends and then defies all expectations.

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Robert Altman's Three Women takes a surreal, improvisational and rather eerie look at the lives of three women in a western desert town. The plot centers around the youngest of the women, Pinky (Sissy Spacek), an eccentric, withdrawn woman trying to begin a new life. She finds work as an attendant at a hot springs spa catering to the elderly and infirm. There she befriends her co-worker Millie (Shelley Duvall), an equally strange but more outgoing woman; the two bond, and are soon sharing an apartment. Pinky becomes increasingly dependent on Millie, eventually adopting aspects of her personality and appearance. This obsessive attachment is threatened when Pinky discovers Millie with a man -- Edgar (Robert Fortier), the macho, faux-cowboy husband of local artist Willie (Janice Rule), the last of the title's three women. Pinky's subsequent, desperate actions precipitate the film's enigmatic conclusion, involving an unexpected series of confrontations and role reversals amongst the three women. This story tends to take a backseat to the elliptical, spooky imagery, particularly the desert landscapes, and the quirky performances -- not surprising, given that the film was reportedly shot without a full screenplay and inspired by Altman's own dreams. ~ Judd Blaise, Rovi

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Critic Reviews for 3 Women

All Critics (27) | Top Critics (6)

Throughout, Duvall is brilliant: she coins a brand-new caricature of the confident yet clueless single female, then suggests a real person underneath.

Dec 15, 2014 | Full Review…

Like a dream, it is most mysterious and allusive when it appears to be most precise and direct, when its images are of the recognizable world unretouched (as happens in the film from time to time) by camera filters or lab technicians.

May 9, 2005 | Rating: 4/5

I have seen it many times, been through it twice in shot-by-shot analysis, and yet it always seems to be happening as I watch it. Recurring dreams are like that.

Mar 5, 2005 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…

A spectacular artistic success.

Jun 4, 2004

A gauzy, perfectly executed vacation in Doppelgänger-burg.

Jun 25, 2002

Robert Altman's would-be American art film (1977) is murky, snide, and sloppy.

Jan 1, 2000 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for 3 Women

½

2nd time watching this, still can't claim to understand the ending, but wow, such a good movie. Really enjoyed the relationship between these two women. The third in the end is too seldom in the movie to have any real impact. I also lean towards the theory that Millie and Pinkie are the same person, but hard to say.

Nicki Marie
Nicki Marie

Super Reviewer

½

Wide-eyed Pinky (Sissy Spacek) latches onto delusional Millie (Shelly Duval) until an accident causes a radical personality shift. Fascinating, subtly unnerving psychological mystery that provides a bridge between PERSONA (1966) and LOST HIGHWAY (1997).

Greg S
Greg S

Super Reviewer

½

'She tries not to shatter, kaleidoscope style Personality changes behind her red smile Every new problem brings a stranger inside Heplessly forcing one more new disguise.'

Stefanie C
Stefanie C

Super Reviewer

When "3 Women" came out, I was 11. I have no memory of its release. Even at that young age, I paid careful attention to film. If "3 Women" had been released in the suburbs of New York City, where I lived, I would have known. I also would have known about it if it had received Oscar nominations. It received none. I became aware of "3 Women" in my 20s. When I was about 25 and in graduate school, I rented it. (Probably on videotape!) I remember thinking that it was one of the weirdest films I had ever seen. Not weird in an engaging way -- weird in an off-putting way. None of it made any sense to me. I would have given it a 2 or 3 rating. But I never forgot the film. Something about it stayed with me. Many times I felt the desire to try watching it again. Would it make more sense to me now? Would the older me see it in a new way? Would I ever figure out what Robert Altman was trying to do with it? Something kept drawing me back. It was a code I wanted to crack. After about five years on my Netflix queue, it finally came to the top. Twenty years later, I finally got my chance to view this enigma again. I'm happy to report that it was worth the wait. The older me did see it differently. I don't think it's a great film, but I certainly understand and appreciate what Altman was trying to do. Even with its flaws, which are considerable, I now feel that "3 Women" deserves its status as a classic of the American avant-garde. Not all the avant-garde classics are European! (But most are.) More details on plot later....

William Dunmyer
William Dunmyer

Super Reviewer

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