A mother's growing mental instability puts a strain on her
marriage, her blue-collar husband, and their three children.
A Woman Under the Influence (1974)
Written and Directed by John Cassavetes
Starring Peter Falk, Gena Rowlands, Fred Draper, Lady Rowlands, Katherine Cassavetes, George Dunn, Eddie Shaw, Mario Gallo
Oscar Nominations - Best Actress (Gena Rowlands), Best Director
John Cassavetes is clearly an acquired taste. This film is very stream-of-consciousness, and devoid of any sort of plot. That being said, Peter Falk and Gena Rowlands are outstanding in their performances, and this is a brilliant example of mental deterioration and a crumbling marriage. I've only just begun my foray into Cassavetes's work, but I think he valued character over story, and message over plot. That's all good, but why oh why did this film have to be two hours and thirty-five minutes long? There's so much here that could've been trimmed down, which leads me to believe it was ego behind the camera quite often.
Gena Rowlands plays Mabel, a mentally ill housewife and mother who is doing her best to keep herself together, but it isn't working. Her husband Nick (Falk) is abusive, brash, and may be gaslighting her if you watch it that way. When Mabel gets committed, Nick proves to be a rather incompetent parent, not knowing how to relate or even talk to their three kids. Upon Mabel's return, she's still unwell and you get the feeling that she always will be. But Nick may have come to terms with that. Frankly, I don't know. There are so many different ways to interpret this film, and each one is valid.
A Woman Under the Influence could've used a little more editing down, and maybe a little bit of a story. Regardless of my thoughts, you can't deny the intense performances from Falk and Rowlands, as well as Cassavetes's commitment to the craft. In the end, I think it just didn't do it for me, but that doesn't make it a bad film in the slightest.