It’s taken 125 episodes and almost five years of doing the show, but I’m finally ready to talk about John Cassavetes’ A Woman Under the Influence (1974). This film puts me through the ringer in a way that no other film comes close to. Gena Rowlands’ high wire act as the unsteady, misunderstood Mabel is a performance for the ages. My heart breaks for her again and again. The film makes me want to protect her and help guide her to a safe, quiet place somewhere on the other side of all this emotional tumult. She deserves a better sort of homecoming.
I don’t know if I would be able to, though. And that’s another part of what makes A Woman Under the Influence so difficult. I see myself in Nick’s volatility, as played by Peter Falk. Cassavetes’ skill in forcing us to look in the deep, dark, truthful mirror was unparalleled. It’s my favorite thing about him. He never lets the audience off the hook. He shows us everything that’s remarkable, ridiculous, and terrible about us all at once and we’re glad of it, once all is said and done. We’re glad because it’s a lesson in love. Cassavetes loved his characters. He loved his audience. He loved his work. That love is what allows us to be honest about ourselves and feel alright, eventually. When the lights come up, you understand how much we all deserve forgiveness. I love him for that.
What you’ll find in this episode: nervous breakdowns, ill advised parties, spaghetti breakfasts, and the perils of just being yourself.
Links and Recommendations:
Check out A Woman Under the Influence on IMDB.
Ericca’s further viewing pick of Opening Night.
Cole’s further viewing pick of A Constant Forge.
A look at the personal and professional partnership of Cassavetes and Rowlands.
If I were only allowed to keep one film book, I would choose Cassavetes on Cassavetes.