Writer Marsha Norman's sure hand is evident in this superlatively acted "woman's film" that entwines the mid-life crises of two women from different backgrounds and concludes that self-destructive behavior is an equal opportunity destroyer.
When dissatisfied housewife Iris Prue (Sally Field) abandoned her 20-year marriage, she wrecked both her future financial security and her relationship with her grown daughter (Jessalyn Gilsig). After her boyish lover drains her bank account, Iris finds herself reduced to working as a housekeeper. To make matters worse, Iris must continually prove herself to her demanding employer, hoity-toity Paula Tanner (Judy Davis). Paula is neglected by her successful husband, Leo (Jerry Wasserman), an agent who represents young actresses at all hours, so Paula pours her pent-up energy into trendy self-improvement. Meanwhile, Iris bonds with the Tanners' drug-abusing daughter (Carly Pope), who responds to her lack of pretense. When Leo demands a divorce, Paula is left at loose ends; Iris, meanwhile, has established an emotional connection with another woman's child but wants desperately to redeem herself in the eyes of her own estranged daughter. This exemplary melodrama recalls the glory days of the Warner Brothers tearjerker, balancing two challenging story lines without striking a false note. Norman's screenplay explores the emotional growth of two self-absorbed women, who only move forward by responding to each other's troubles, and erratic director Susan Seidelman lets the performances of the exceptional lead shine through. A master of conveying pent-up rage, Field spars beautifully with Davis, whose genius lies in clarifying unsympathetic neuroses. This drama pleads trenchantly for the cultivation of one's own inner resources rather than reliance on the kindness of strangers.
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- Released: 1999
- Rating: R
- Review: Writer Marsha Norman's sure hand is evident in this superlatively acted "woman's film" that entwines the mid-life crises of two women from different backgrounds and concludes that self-destructive behavior is an equal opportunity destroyer. When dissatisf… (more)