Steaming (1985)

steaming

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: Saving a steam room.

Three women (Vanessa Redgrave, Sarah Miles, Patti Love) congregate at a London steam room designed like a Turkish bathhouse. Despite their lifestyle differences they become good friends as they divulge their problems to one another and learn to lean on each other to help them cope with life’s difficulties. Then one day Violet (Diana Dors), who is the bath house owner, informs them that the place is set for demolition, which causes everyone to go on a mission to try and save it.

The film is based on the Nell Dunn play, which was highly regarded at the time, but makes for a very poor transfer to film. It starts out flat and never recovers. The dialogue has too much of a conversational quality that is not interesting and the problems that they discuss are not compelling, or original. The humor from the play is missing and the dry, somber tone only makes things even more boring. The only time it gains any traction is when it’s announced that the place is closing, but everything gets resolved in such a sitcom-styled way that it hardly seems worth the effort to watch.

The entire cast is made up of women and there is an abundance of nudity particularly from Miles, which doesn’t seem like a big deal these days. The biggest issue though is the fact that everything takes place from inside the bath house, which is gray, grimy, and rundown. The film should’ve had some segments shot from different locales if to only allow for some visual variety and to help the viewer understand the characters better by seeing how they react in different social settings.

Miles and Redgrave are wasted in drab roles and this goes likewise for Dors whose last film role this was. Love is the only one that shows any liveliness and although her character is a bit annoying she at least as an emotional breakdown near the middle, which adds some mild dramatic tension.

Joseph Losey was a competent director who made many interesting films, so it’s a shame that his career had to end with such a dud. He was already sick with cancer while he filmed this and like with Dors died a year before it was released. The disease may have sapped his creative energy and explain why this production is so ponderously sterile. It’s certainly a far cry from his other works as well as the Bruce Jay Friedman play Steambath, which had a similar setting, but a much more imaginative plotline.

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: September 28, 1985

Runtime: 1Hour 31Minutes

Rated R

Director: Joseph Losey

Studio: New World Pictures

Available: DVD (Region 2)

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