3 Women – Criterion Collection

Surreal, Dreamlike, Utterly Absorbing, and Perfectly Cast

April 7th, 2011 by Wayward Muse
Rating: Genres: Featured Actors: Actors: Craig Richard Nelson, Janice Rule, John Cromwell, Robert Fortier, Ruth Nelson, Shelley Duvall, Sierra Pecheur Featured Directors:
3 Women

Altman says he dreamed this movie whole, complete with the actors, and then went about trying to recreate the dream on film. That is exactly how it feels: surreal, dreamlike, utterly absorbing, and perfectly cast. The nice thing about all this is that Altman himself does not claim to know exactly what it all means, so we are left with a great deal of freedom of interpretation. The three women in this movie seem to me to be parts of a whole; individually they are mere caricatures or faces of the Goddess; the sad, wise, mysterious, and resigned Willie, who is part mother and part crone; the hopelessly dorky and out-of-touch Millie, who seeks, through the outward trappings of what she imagines to be sophistication, to be the popular it-girl of her imagination; and the unformed child-woman Pinky, who remained utterly creepy to me from beginning to end.

I was waiting from Sissy Spacek’s first scene for something awful to happen, as she played Pinky with that combination of naivety and neediness that always signals a trainwreck about to happen. I was not at all prepared for what did happen, though—it was a delightful twist. Sissy Spacek remains one of my all-time-favorite actresses and her incredible range is on full display here. Shelly Duvall uses her utterly unique and weird persona to maximun effect; she was born to play other-worldly and surreal characters, and is simply magnificent in this role. As the Three Women interact, merge, emerge, break free from their various shackles, and re-emerge, each begins to become more of whole person; or that is my interpretation—really, it’s anybody’s guess! If you can handle slow, arty, and ambiguous, this is a truly remarkable film that will linger for a very long time.

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