Tag Archives: Sissy Spacek

3 Women (1977)

3 women 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Three women share bond.

Pinky (Sissy Spacek) is a young woman still searching for an identity who gets a job at a senior health spa. She becomes attracted to one of the trainers there named Mille (Shelley Duvall) and when Millie posts a notice that she is looking for a roommate Pinky is the first to respond. Since Millie is quite lonely she initially enjoys the attention that Pinky gives her and her still adolescent tendencies coincides with Millie’s paternal ones. Things though turn rocky and when Millie kicks Pinky out of the apartment in a rage Pinky responds by attempting to commit suicide by drowning herself. After she is saved the two begin to switch identities with Pinky becoming more aggressive and snarky while Millie becomes the passive one. Their merging identities also includes Willie (Janice Rule) a pregnant bar owner whose provocative murals hold an entrancing grip on Pinky.

This cerebral film, which was produced without any type of script and based solely on some of Robert Altman’s dreams was made during the director’s heyday when he could literally get just about anything he wanted financed by a movie studio. In fact it was while driving to catch a plane that Altman told his traveling partner to stop off at the studio so he could pitch this idea to the them, which he assured him would only take ‘a few minutes’, which it did. Even though it became a critical darling it did poorly at the box office and was in and out of the theaters in a matter of a few weeks.

Overall I’m a big fan of Altman’s work, but found this one to run longer than needed with what seemed like a lot of extraneous dialogue much of which was ad-libbed by the performers. The idea that people can shift between being passive or aggressive at any given time depending on the circumstances is an interesting one and I certainly enjoyed the murals, which were made specifically for the film, but the appropriated title should’ve been ‘2 women’ instead of 3 as Rule’s character barely says anything and is hardly seen at all.

Spacek gives the best performance and in my opinion she was the best thing about the movie. Duvall is good too and it was entertaining to see her playing more of the grounded one as usually she’s cast as the kooky types. I also thought it was cool that both Duvall’s and Spacek’s characters where from the same hometown’s in Texas as the actresses were with Duvall’s being Houston and Spacek’s was Quitman.

It is also fun seeing Dennis Christopher in an early career role appearing late in the film as a delivery man. Altman also casts real-life couple John Cromwell and Ruth Nelson as Pinky’s parents. Both Cromwell, who is also the father of actor James Cromwell, and Nelson were blacklisted in the 50’s during the McCarthy era and in fact this marked Nelson’s first film appearance in 29 years.

The dream sequence is cool, but everything else comes off like a weak version of Persona, which was far superior. The surreal ending leaves too much open to personal interpretation, which was frustrating. I also thought it was dumb that Millie reads Pinky’s diary entries out loud like she is a second grader and they really should’ve had her do it as a voice-over. It was also the first childbirth I had ever seen were the baby comes out of the womb without an umbilical cord.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: April 3, 1977

Runtime: 2Hours 4Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Robert Altman

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video

Ginger in the Morning (1974)

ginger in the morning

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Older man/younger woman.

Joe is a middle-aged, recently divorced man trying to stumble his way back into the single scene. He passes by Ginger (Sissy Spacek) who is hitchhiking alongside a roadway and decides to pick her up. He is attracted to her youthful carefreeness and hopes to take advantage of her ‘free-love’ hippie attitude by bringing her back to his place for some quick easy sex. However, Ginger is secretly pregnant and looks at Joe’s maturity as a good father-figure for her child, which Joe is not ready for. Charlie (Mark Miller) is Joe’s best friend who along with his wife Sugar (Susan Oliver) barrages in and disrupts everything.

The story starts out okay with the budding relationship between the two leads and their attempts to try to get beyond the generation gap I found to be appealing. The film though shifts gears in jarring fashion by allowing Charlie and Sugar to enter into it and then gets even further away from the main theme by having the third act dealing with the male bonding between Charlie and Joe. It is only at the very end that it gets back to the romantic concept, but the whole thing ends up coming off like three movies crammed into one. All three story threads are weak and better suited for an episode of ‘Love American Style’ than a feature film.

Screenwriter Miller casts himself as Charlie who is obnoxious and dumb and given too much screen-time. Blonde actress Oliver wears a black wig that looks hideous and their incessant bickering is contrived and the cutesy way they magically make-up at the end is strained.

Markham who has been acting consistently since 1966 and remains busy even today, but has never achieved stardom is okay in a rare leading film role. His character of a middle-aged man trying to ‘connect’ with the much younger Ginger by making broad assumptions about her generation is quite relatable. Spacek though comes off best out of all of them. Her character seems like a real person while the rest are caricatures and her twangy Texas accent fits the part. She even sings the film’s theme song, which isn’t bad.

Character actor David Doyle can be seen at the beginning as a yapping man who gives Joe the ‘finer points’ of picking up women and one-night-stands. Slim Pickens is essentially wasted as the town’s sheriff, but he manages to make the most of the few scenes that he is in.

The use of a hard spotlight gives the production a cheap, low budget look and some soft lighting would have created a better mood and artistic design. There is also a boom mike that can be seen for several minutes in one scene. Yet despite the film’s amateurish look I still liked its unpretentious quality as well as the cute climatic sequence that takes place on a bus, which propelled me to give this thing a rather generous 5 rating.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: July 17, 1974

Runtime: 1Hour 34Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Gordon Wiles

Studio: Kyma-Circle

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video

The Straight Story (1999)

straight story

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 9 out of 10

4-Word Review: Old man on lawnmower.

Richard Farnsworth plays Alvin Straight, an older man with health problems who decides to travel from Iowa to Wisconsin on a rider mower to visit his sick brother.

This film is a true achievement. For every flamboyantly bizarre film David Lynch has done he equals it here with his restraint. He truly proves himself a complete director and a sensitive one at that. He shows a deep respect for his subject and the area. Nothing is overplayed or exaggerated. It is the type of film no one thought Hollywood could do. Based on a true story they go along the same route the real Alvin took. The drama is not compromised and everything is handled in a dignified way. It propels itself on the quite eloquence of his journey and the people he meets. The soft pace is stunning especially when you realize that it is still quite captivating.

Farnsworth is perfect for the role. In many ways you feel he is Alvin Straight. He exudes so much of the same qualities of the character that you are convinced that they share some spiritual connection. His lines and little stories are both touching and powerful. Yet it is his deep expressive blue eyes that you remember the most. At any given time they can convey both his personal strength and sensitivity. Sissy Spacek is also terrific. Her portrayal of his mentally handicapped daughter is so convincing that you really can’t see the acting.

This is an emotional film and one that makes the viewer feel good without being manipulative or using any of the old conventions. The simplicity is refreshing. The only minor drawback is the meeting with his brother. Talented actor Harry Dean Stanton plays his brother yet he is only given a few lines. You wish he had more and we were able to see a more complete relationship. Even so this is still a wonderful movie.

My Rating: 9 out of 10

Released: September 3, 1999

Runtime: 1Hour 52Minutes

Rated G

Director: David Lynch

Studio: Buena Vista Pictures

Available: VHS, DVD