1988 - PG - 81 Mins.
|Director: Woody Allen
|Producer: Robert Greenhut
|Written By: Woody Allen
|Starring: Gena Rowlands, Mia Farrow, Ian Holm, Gene Hackman, Martha Plimpton, Blythe Danner, Harris Yulin, John Houseman, David Odgen Stiers, Philip Bosco
|Review by: Carl Langley
Unlike the typically buoyant comedies Woody Allen dishes out merrily and quicker to make the creators of The Land Before Time jealous, his undistorted dramas do not indulge us with his stuttering mannerisms on screen. Along with Interiors, his first critically praised pure drama, Another Woman does not lace itself with faint scents of the normal Woodster comedy (take a look at Crimes and Misdemeanors or Manhattan for a prime example). The absence of Allen in the film usually keeps the jocularity behind the camera with him. Fortunately, the master of dialogue knows when it is appropriate to keep the laughs, right-note or awkward, off screen. And when he strikes the correct pensive chord, the result is ambitiously impressionable.
Rowlands and Hackman
Another Woman was the 17th film written and directed by Woody Allen. He had just come off another dead serious motion picture called September, which was critically hailed but bombed domestically. These two films, along with Interiors – which was shot back in the 70’s – are products of a different Woody Allen. Those who are settled in with his comedies could be highly disappointed; then again, if the chance is given, people will ultimately recognize how much of a landmark accomplishment his serious films are.
As is the case with most of his drama films, it is said that Allen exhibits an immense amount of Bergman qualities, the great Swedish director who has served as Allen’s inspiration. Allen proudly vocalizes his motivating idols in many films – from Bergman to Groucho Marx. It was said that Another Woman was just a dedicated replica of Bergman’s Wild Strawberries, but this would be undermining Allen’s work. While the picture may seem borrowed, it still is an intelligently written foray about a search for gratification.
Wild Strawberries is about a story of a doctor who discovers that his loved ones have obscure feelings about him among other things. In Another Woman, Gena Rowlands plays Marion Post, an accomplished philosophy professor who at age fifty is compelled by psychiatric sessions overheard through her ventilation system to fall into self-scrutiny. Marion works efficiently and requires an unobstructed environment for her writing, which is why she rented an apartment for herself. While working on a new book in the rented room, she accidentally eavesdrops on a conversation between a therapist and his patient. At first, she does not want to know about the problems of other people and covers the vent with cushions. When they fall down, she cannot help but listen to a woman (Mia Farrow) full of anguish whose conversation gives Marion the sense of her own sadness. The patient's wretched commentary on her feelings of emptiness and ineffable depression claws its way through Marion's vainglorious soul.
Her depression grows throughout the film. She has become bored with her friends, most of who despise her deep down. Her relationship with her husband, Ken (Ian Holm) has become dull and passionless. After listening to a conversation between a couple about making love on a hardwood floor, Marion curiously asks her husband, “Do I seem like the hardwood type,” trying to evoke some appetite into their lovemaking. Ken blatantly tries to shrug it off. She becomes flustered with him and it results in an affair with another man (Gene Hackman).
Not everyone despises Marion. Her stepdaughter, Laura (elegantly played by Martha Plimpton), looks up to her. Even though Laura idolizes her stepmother and cherishes her relationship, there are still certain things she is skeptical about disclosing. There is also a former student of Marion’s who throws an unexpected accolade at the professor, claiming she changed her life. Sadly, these characters are only minor and do not have much accessibility in Marion’s life. This was smart on Allen’s part to write in these characters. They show that Marion is not hated by everyone, and shows even further she has good tendencies. Yet, none of the people who are really close to Marion are too fond of her and this is shown in a dream sequence with her friends performing a play. They speak of her amenities and criticize her with certainty. Her problem is she falls back on her mind and thinks she knows best on everything (sounds like a typical philosophy professor).
Gena Rowlands gives a wonderful performance as Marion, acting out every trait to a crisp. Another Woman proves how good of an actress Rowlands is; she is at the top of her game. An admirable cast surrounds Rowlands in her tour de force. Gene Hackman is always a sight for sore eyes in the cinema world and he is no different here. Allen regular Mia Farrow is sufficient in a poignant performance. Martha Plimpton, Ian Holm, John Houseman, and Harris Yulin as Marion’s brother also turn in top-notch supporting roles.
Many directors use legends as inspirations; that is what makes the legends who they are. And whether Another Woman is heavily inflated with personal reasons in Allen’s own life or inspirations of legends, with what he has produced, it admirably deserves a look, if not some appreciation in its own record.