In an effort to rejuvenate my thirst for film I have partaken on an ambitious endeavor. I have decided to compile my list of 100 favorite films, “rewatch” them, and write a brief review. I encourage you to follow along.
A Woman Under The Influence (Cassavetes, 1974)
Love hides our insecurities under a warm canopy of belonging and acceptance, and it exploits them, cutting us to the nerve. All of our efforts to shield ourselves from the harsh, unforgiving cold of life are futile when we are at the mercy of love. Our visions of the perfect happiness are nothing to love. Love follows its own rules. It takes what it wants, but it gives just as generously. It can be a maddening frenzy of wills that ends in an exhausted submission.
In the characters of Mable and Nick, Cassavetes proves that love makes us fools. As the film unfolds, we see the flaws and the fragility of both characters and they never notice themselves.
To say that Mable is a sick woman would sell her short, but she is in a constant haze of juvenile spirit, and unease, which would give the strong impression that she is not all together sane. Without the love of her husband and children she would no doubt wither and die. But, the very thing that keeps her alive is also what she struggles with. She struggles with the expectations and the societal standards that come with being a wife and mother, and we watch her reach her breaking point, at times it seems at though she is about to claw through her skin. She has so much love and joy within her, but she is at a loss on how to express it in an appropriate way.
Nick is a buffoon, a loveable buffoon, but a buffoon nonetheless. He, like many men, is completely incapable of expressing himself in any meaningful and emotional way. In his dealings with Mable, he winds himself so tightly that eventually his emotions split out the sides in violent outbursts. But, he finds a security in Mable’s strange love. He is comfortable being the fool he is with her, and we see how he breaks down when she is not there.
These two people are exactly what love is. They aren’t traditionally beautiful, and their idea of romance is clumsy. But life goes on blissfully for them, pocked with the scabs of breakdowns and outbursts. They define their happiness.
– James Merolla