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Overall Rating
4

Awesome50%
Worth A Look: 26.92%
Average: 7.69%
Pretty Bad: 3.85%
Total Crap: 11.54%

2 reviews, 14 user ratings


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3 Women
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by Jay Seaver

"One, two..."
4 stars

It's a funny thing. Normally when someone says that it feels like someone made a movie up as he or she went along, it's because the end result feels disorganized, like random scenes shot with no idea how they connect. Then, there's things like "3 Women", which were shot without an ending and just a vague outline of the rest, but feel tight.

Pinky Rose (Sissy Spacek) takes a job at a rehabilitation center in California, having just moved there from Texas. The manager asks Millie Lammoreaux (Shelley Duvall) to train her, and Pinky's immediately taken with the other girl, eventually moving in when Millie's roommate leaves. Millie talks constantly but the only one who listens is Pinky, though of course Millie doesn't appreciate it; she's too busy trying to try to find a boyfriend without having any real grasp on her desirability (or lack thereof). They live in an apartment complex owned by pregnant Willie and Edgar Hart (Janice Rule and Robert Fortier), who also own the bar they stop at on the way home. Things continue like that for weeks until a broken date leads Millie to do something which shakes Pinky's adoration, leaving things very different in the aftermath.

Three actresses are listed immediately after the title, but that doesn't necessarily mean that Pinky, Millie, and Willie are the title characters; certain individuals change enough over the course of the movie to potentially be counted twice. It's difficult to describe how this can happen without getting into spoiler territory; suffice it to say that Pinky and Millie, at least, are not quite the same people at the end of the film that they are at the start.

That's a great testament to the performances given by Spacek and Duvall. When we first meet their characters, there doesn't seem to be a whole lot to them. They're aggressively ordinary in a way Hollywood probably wouldn't allow today, thirty years later. Millie's kind of delusional and maybe a bit pathetic, and we laugh at her though other movies would have us admiring her pluck for acting like she's highly desirable even though, in reality, she's kind of funny-looking and very much a bore. That's because Duvall doesn't give the character even a hint of self-awareness; she simply allows us to see the broad gap between how Millie thinks of herself and what she really is. Because we see that clearly, it's more affecting when she begins to feel actual guilt later on, and we're able to feel for her when that guilt mixes with irritation.

Spacek, meanwhile, spends the first half of the movie projecting wide-eyed innocence, the small-town kid amazed by everything in California. She's eager to please but has a streak of nosiness to balance it, and when her illusions are shattered, Spacek plays it as the life being wrenched out of her, rather than it draining away. Pinky becomes more assertive later, almost as much as she was naive in the beginning, although she never dips too far into caricature.

The rest of the cast does a fine job in supporting them. Janice Rule and Robert Fortier are most notable, with Rule saying little as she paints the floors and walls of her property. At the time, she maybe just seems a little grumpy, but by the end the audience might want to re-evaluate the character - is she resigned to something, afraid, or angry? There's arguments for all three, once we get a handle on Fortier's Edgar. Edgar seems like a pleasant enough fellow, but it doesn't take a whole lot for Fortier to add something more than a little cold to him.

All of those performances are notable, belying the fact that Altman leaves a lot up to interpretation by the time he gets to the end. Some of it is red herrings - there's a pair of twins that give Pinky a chance to say something silly, but oddly fitting for this movie, on the nature of identity, and the mention that Pinky's given name is Mildred hints that he might be throwing the "two facets of the same person" idea into play, though not much is done with it. Potentially the most frustrating to those looking for a straightforward story is an extended dream sequence toward the end which makes the screen into a sort of moving collage. What we see on the other side practically begs for an explanation.

Such an explanation isn't really necessary; we've already been shown the idea of a single person shattering and reforming in a way more able to handle the situation, so why not three? It's as intriguing as an ending as the film is as a whole.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=1696&reviewer=371
originally posted: 02/06/07 01:23:18
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User Comments

2/08/14 fbxwjuxmd USA 3 stars
7/27/13 Fire With Fire Altman's "Bergman" film,but,natch,badly filmed & acted,murky,and overpraised. 1 stars
5/07/13 PAUL SHORTT ABSORBING PORTRAIT OF PSYCHOLOGICAL ALIENATION 3 stars
4/05/08 Carol Baker What's going on. Can't figure it out. 2 stars
10/10/07 mr.mike oddly watchable 4 stars
6/28/04 cavu@bellsouth.net Great acting: Yes! Pointless: Yes! Boring: Mostly! Worth watching: No! 1 stars
4/20/04 Tim Hatcher Watch it for the journey, not the destination. Engrossing, haunting, fascinating, unique. 5 stars
4/02/04 re a great film 5 stars
3/12/04 etienne extraordinary ! 5 stars
2/10/04 Jerome Twenty-five years later, this film remains vivid and evocative 5 stars
11/12/03 ALEX TEDIOUS ARTSY PSYCHO-CHARACTER STUDY THAT LEAVES THE VIEWER DRAINED AND BEFUDDLED. 1 stars
8/23/02 brandon quinn My all-time favorite motion picture! And I Like ALOT of Movies! 5 stars
8/07/02 I Can't Swim Saw this when it came out, 125 yrs ago, and never forgot it 5 stars
3/22/02 Tim Hatcher One of few films I will watch repeatedly. Mesmerizing. Not on VHS yet, damn it. 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  02-Feb-1977 (PG)

UK
  N/A

Australia
  02-Jul-1977 (PG)


Directed by
  Robert Altman

Written by
  Robert Altman

Cast
  Shelley Duvall
  Sissy Spacek
  Janice Rule
  Robert Fortier
  Ruth Nelson
  John Cromwell



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