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#216- A Woman Under the Influence

Quick recap: Mabel Longhetti is on the verge of a mental breakdown, but she’s probably not as insane as the other adults in her life.

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Generally how I feel about most things

Fun (?) fact: This movie made Richard Dreyfuss puke, or so he claims.

My thoughts: A Woman Under the Influence is one of those films I can say I appreciate, while in the same breath also vow to NEVER WATCH AGAIN. I embarrass easily, especially when watching other people act strange (wahjah), so watching this all the way through was excruciating. Not as excruciating as watching hours of fan made videos on Youtube about Slappy the Dummy from Goosebumps (courtesy of my 6 year old), but still pretty bad.

Gena Rowlands did a remarkable job playing Mabel, the main character, although I felt she was a little too dramatic at times. It’s never clear what she is suffering from and I really have no guesses. It was as if director John Cassavetes just opened up the DSM and picked out random symptoms from an assortment of mental illnesses. Mabel was at times manic, other times depressive, anxious and also had a thing with flirting with other men. She didn’t call it flirting though, just that she was a warm person.This gets her in trouble at the beginning of the movie when she goes to a bar and starts talking with a random guy, who later drives her home and assaults her.

The real heart of the movie is how the family copes with Mabel. Her husband Nick seems caring at first and fiercely protective. But he is also sort of the worst in that he continues to put her in situations that are inappropriate. I get that Mabel is a grown woman but her mental state is obviously unstable so maybe it’s not a good idea to keep alcohol around? And also probably not a good idea to throw her a huge party when she gets out of the mental hospital when she is clearly not better. And WHY did they have kids? When you look at it from these points, he almost seems like a villain, even though it is clear that he loves her.

When looking up reviews about this movie, many people point out that it’s actually a heartwarming tale of how unconventional families can still function and raise great kids. The three kids in the film do seem stable and the movie ends with them being tucked into bed with their parents kissing them goodnight and telling them how much they are loved. This is shortly after witnessing their mother have another nervous breakdown, cut herself, and then watch as their father hits her. They are fine now, but there is no guarantee that some damage is being done to everyone.

What I like most about the movie is that it has a happy ending on the surface, but there really is no resolution. Mabel is calm at the end of the film and her husband is happy, but it’s only fleeting. Everything will go back to normal eventually and then start to unravel again. The director didn’t feel the need to wrap up the story in order for the audience to feel good because that’s the reality many people with mental illness face everyday.

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Final review: 4/5. Please don’t make me sit through this ever again

Up next: The Color of Pomegranetes

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