Issac's Review of A Woman Under the Influence
Fresh to Cassavetes' canon, A WOMAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE is tiresome and exhausting for my first-time viewing, throughout the entire running time (155 minutes), we watch a series of intense clashes between Mabel (Gena Rowlands) and Nick (Peter Falk), sometimes catalyzed by their family members or close friends, and the repercussions includes Mabel exacerbates her mental disability and the collateral damage to their 3 young children.
Using intimate and irregular camerawork to demonstrate a fly-on-the-wall authenticity opens a maximum door for thespians to show off their superlative working-class liberation of feelings and emotion, Gena Rowlands, immerses into her character with optimum dexterity, from her quirks of sputtering and word-mouthing, the fervid and persistent advocacy of opera aria to the time-bomb of her squeamish frailty, we never know when will she explode, whilst time is ticking and the wait is taxing both for the players and the spectators. She also shines in her warmer facet during the heartwarming episodes with her kids. Mabel is a dream role any actress would be ever craving for, Rowlands is the performer nonpareil for her concentrated and committed dedication of embodiment without falling into the pitfall of borderline OTT.
Falk, a flawless pick for an ordinary blue-collar, bedeviled by his wife's unhinged nature and stumped by the futile and consuming communication, improperly catches the worst moment to throw a surprise party for Mabel, his quandary could be easier to be related by the audiences, besides, his trademark out-of-focus eyes betray his frustration and it is certainly the situation is at his wits' end.
This tiny budgeted film is a family workshop, kinfolks and friends constitutes the cast, e.g. both Cassavete's mother Katherine and Rowlands' mother Lady plays the in-laws in the film. Overall the film is a challenging project which unflinchingly debunks the underbelly of the marital bond, "till death us do apart" is so harrowing to listen under this circumstance. During the conjugal tug-of-war, Cassavetes pluckily interposes their children into the game, at the eleventh hour, it is the kids' relentless endeavor thaws the edginess induced by the heavy volley of laborious squabbles.
Finally I must bellyache about the befuddling timeline, when Mabel brings a stranger to her house at night, it is the next morning Nick and his workmates come back from working, they have an unpleasant midday dinner, then it is the morning after Mabel's mother brings the children to home before school, right? Then how come later Nick's mother accusing Mabel for adultery at "last night"? Help me out here, it does bugs me, otherwise it is an indeed unique film of its own kind, although it doesn't gratify my satisfaction thanks to the frivolous and dreary altercations, I am always coveting for a bit more from the story plainly extracted from the lifelike experience, other than accentuates the tedious and irksome sensory overkill, it would be nicer if a sensible approach could lead us to a palliative nostrum to set our cerebral phase back to a normal state.