July 29, 2005

Another Woman (1988)
Grade: 42/100

Director: Woody Allen
Stars: Gena Rowlands, Gene Hackman, Mia Farrow

What it's about. A woman reaches her midlife crisis, and regrets decisions she has made that have left her lonely and disappointed, despite a successful career.

How others will see it. Cerebral and sympathetic admirers of Woody Allen may accept this well-intentioned but somewhat tiresome exercise in middle-aged hand wringing. Younger audiences who seek entertainment are certain to reject it.

How I felt about it. For most people, turning 50 may get you a membership application from the AARP, but your life has already sunk into a routine that is presumably comfortable. If so, you should be thankful for what you have.

But, if you are a character in Another Woman, it is certain that you will not be satisfied. You want a passionate spouse, you want warm friendships, you want acclaim from the intellectsia regarding your latest brilliant and insightful book, which is destined to gather dust in used bookstores for eternity. You want all this. Mental, physical, and financial health just isn't enough.

You crave intimacy, because at 50, you have just begun to realize how shallow most group conversations have become. The search for something real proves disappointing, so you escape into frequent thoughts and even fantasies, where your lover sweeps you off your feet, or vice versa.

To this jaded viewer, it seems that these characters haven't matured very well, despite their half century on Earth. The only exception is black sheep brother Paul, whose expectations of fulfilment in life were lowered by his demanding father while he was still a teenager. Marion, on the other hand, has had her expectations built up by older men, who found her promising, or at least, physically attractive.

Onto the cast. Gene Hackman has only a small role, as the tempting and persistent suitor, who Marion won't accept (unless he finds the perfect sentence twenty times in a row, a most difficult game) even though it has begun to dawn on her that her own marriage is empty.

Mia Farrow also has a relatively minor role as a whiny woman who lacks a sense of humor, the two character traits hand in hand. Since Farrow appears to be eight months pregnant, it's not a surprise she doesn't get much screentime. Blythe Danner is the other woman, who also has few scenes, but is delighted in one (but pretends to be embarrassed, an easier game). This is Rowlands movie; a plum role for an aging actress.

If you look for humor, it consists of one joke, with the punch line "This is not the pipe that needs fixing!" But has any superintendent ever walked into an apartment where two fifty-something tenants are having sex on the floor? And if it happened, would it be funny, or a groaner? Well, that's what I thought, too.

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