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A Woman Under the Influence

A Woman Under the Influence (1974)

tomatometer

95

Average Rating: 8.3/10
Reviews Counted: 20
Fresh: 19 | Rotten: 1

Electrified by searing performances from Gena Rowlands and Peter Falk, A Woman Under the Influence finds pioneering independent filmmaker John Cassavetes working at his artistic peak.

100

Average Rating: 9.1/10
Critic Reviews: 8
Fresh: 8 | Rotten: 0

Electrified by searing performances from Gena Rowlands and Peter Falk, A Woman Under the Influence finds pioneering independent filmmaker John Cassavetes working at his artistic peak.

audience

92

liked it
Average Rating: 4.3/5
User Ratings: 7,523

My Rating

Movie Info

John Cassavetes' harrowing masterpiece charts the emotional meltdown of a suburban housewife and its effects on her blue-collar Italian family. Gena Rowlands stars as Mabel Longhetti, a mother of three whose husband Nick (Peter Falk) works as a construction worker; a mismatched couple like so many others in Cassavetes films, the Longhettis seem to be complete opposites: she's impetuous, extroverted, and fragile, while he's controlling, distant, and hard-bitten. Their differences underscore a

R,

Drama, Classics

Jun 29, 1998

Criterion Collection

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All Critics (23) | Top Critics (9) | Fresh (19) | Rotten (1) | DVD (8)

The primal violence that binds men and woman has rarely been evoked as plausibly or intensely as in this 1974 drama.

May 3, 2013 Full Review Source: New Yorker
New Yorker
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Watching 35 years later, you're struck by its forward sense of therapeutic misfortune.

October 21, 2009 Full Review Source: Time Out New York
Time Out New York
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Falk and the rest of the cast are exceptional -- even the smallest roles feel spot-on -- but Rowlands is the film.

October 20, 2009 Full Review Source: Village Voice
Village Voice
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Rowlands' performance in the title role is one of those tour de force numbers available only to screen players of alcoholics and lunatics.

November 12, 2008 Full Review Source: Variety
Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

An astonishing, compulsive film, directed with a crackling energy.

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

The most frightening scenes are extremely compelling, and this is a thoughtful film that does prompt serious discussion.

May 9, 2005 Full Review Source: New York Times
New York Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Magnifies in squirmy detail the efforts of a couple to cope with her -- or should that be their? -- mental meltdown.

April 18, 2014 Full Review Source: Creative Loafing
Creative Loafing

Despite the fact that there's a lot of technique on display here, the film still described as cinéma vérité, which I suppose is a testament to how raw and emotional it all feels.

October 28, 2013 Full Review Source: Scene-Stealers.com
Scene-Stealers.com

Falk and Rowlands -- in performances of almost indescribable intensity -- detail a marriage anchored by love, but tossed by the expectations of others and the unpredictable swell of madness.

March 29, 2011 Full Review Source: AV Club
AV Club

Gena Rowlands gives a career-defining tour de force performance that is a pinnacle of film-acting in an earth-shattering film that is unlike any other ever made.

April 11, 2009 Full Review Source: ColeSmithey.com
ColeSmithey.com

An exceptional film .. a study in the complexities of love, in the subtleties of mental disorder and in the way society demands rigid conformity

January 9, 2009 Full Review Source: Urban Cinefile
Urban Cinefile

John Cassavetes was one of those rare artists of whom it could be said that his flaws were his strengths, and his strengths were his flaws...Consequently, the film has to rank somewhere between the two in the Cassavetes canon, and I'd opt for putting it c

March 12, 2007 Full Review Source: culturevulture.net
culturevulture.net

A insightful essay on sexual politics: Rowlands is terrific as a housewife who crosses the line into sanity. With a light feminist touch, she is perceived as a victim of repressive patriarchal order.

December 21, 2006 Full Review Source: EmanuelLevy.Com
EmanuelLevy.Com

An insightful essay on sexual politics. As Rowlands delicately crosses the line of sanity, it becomes apparent that imposed social roles are the cause.

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

Always remains intense and popping with energy.

November 2, 2005 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

The knee-jerk, or neckless cinematography (in other words, it's all over the place) is horrendous, unprofessional and junkie. A mess. And the two-a-half-hour running time is no less ludicrous and a feat on its own.

February 13, 2001 Full Review Source: eFilmCritic.com
eFilmCritic.com

John Cassavetes' pioneering independent film represents a hallmark of the indie scene, but at its heart is an excellent story told exceedingly badly.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Filmcritic.com
Filmcritic.com

A difficult film, but one that rewards the viewer willing to enter its darkened door and walk its cluttered and cacophonous rooms.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Apollo Guide
Apollo Guide

Audience Reviews for A Woman Under the Influence

One cannot be a fan of independent cinema without acknowledging the contributions of John Cassavetes. A Woman Under the Influence, arguably his best film, sees the humanistic auteur at the top of his game (observant camera work, extending shots to pick up his characters' idiosyncrasies, mixing and matching shot scales and eye lines, etc.). I love his style of filmmaking, but if there's one criticism, it's that he can times be so observational that it allows room for viewers to misunderstand the point. This film is a perfect example of that.

I didn't believe we are meant to wonder who is "crazier," Mabel (played by the truly brilliant Gena Rowlands) or her husband (a terrific Peter Falk). Cassavetes makes a strong, bold (and rarely voiced) point...it is the trappings of contemporary life that makes us on the verge of insanity. Mabel loves her children, loves to dance and sing -- and for that she is committed. Her "unidentified mental illness" seems to intensify when her husband mistreats and was physically and verbally abuses her (in my opinion, going a bit crazy after someone slaps you is probably healthier and saner than being polite, demure, and rational).

Mabel loves life, shows her love without apology, and is severely punished for it. Everyone else in the movie struggles to calm everyone down and avoid showing too much emotion. While this may be more socially acceptable it isn't sane or even healthy. Humans are emotional beings, and this hallow societal expectation of

Cassavetes tips his hand and proves his point when Mabel comes home from the institution. She hasn't seen her children, husband, and family for 6 months and people assault her, some she has never even met, before she even leaves the car. When she does get inside the safety of her own home the people who put her away and told to forget the past greet her with small talk and politeness. Then when she finally sees her children after being told to "wait a minute" she says to herself that she wants to remain calm and show "no emotions." It seems obvious that this is a perfectly acceptable time to be emotional but fresh from the institution she know being normal doesn't allow you to be emotional. Emotions are scary, messy, and inconvenient and I for one am thrilled that John Cassavetes shed such a great light on these ideas. It's a bold, original film in every sense of the word, and it does what all good cinema does: it makes you think about your relationship to the world.
July 23, 2012
JonathanHutchings
Jonathan Hutchings

Super Reviewer

Two of the best performances I've ever seen. Gena Rowlands makes you fall in love with her and feel sorry for her. Peter Falk is great as the rough man who tries to cope with his wife losing her mind. The scene with Falk sitting in the back of a pick up truck sharing a beer with his kids is priceless.
October 18, 2011
Graham Jones

Super Reviewer

a devastating film containing one of the bravest performances ever seen, for which gena rowlands is justly celebrated, overshadowing the fine work of her costar. peter falk is completely natural as the frustrated blue collar husband trying to deal with his emotionally fragile and increasingly eccentric wife. the film goes places no one else dared, exhibiting the rawest possible emotions and investigating every corner of the family's life. peter falk may be best remembered as the rumpled detective columbo but he did some wonderful work for cassavettes among others.
June 25, 2011
rubystevens
Stella Dallas

Super Reviewer

    1. Mabel Longhetti: All of a sudden, I miss everyone...
    – Submitted by Angela T (20 months ago)
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Foreign Titles

  • Une femme sous influence (FR)
  • Una mujer bajo influencia (ES)
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