Watched Feb 19, 2005
Martin McClellan’s review:
Christine pointed out that Cassavetes, no matter who was in the foreground, kept Gena Rowlands centered in the frame. She was the focal point of every scene she was in, even as Peter Falk bullied his way into center stage. You can't blame the director, since his wife was not only beautiful, but pervasively dynamic and completely unpredictable.
Most actors playing crazy play really crazy. Think Brad Pitt in 12 Monkeys, or Halle Barry in (bleh) Gothika. They play it supremely affected--broad strokes of madness to display, with thespian zeal, just how crazy their character truly is.
But real madness, as played beautifully by Rowlands and Falk, is about confusion. Are they really crazy? Sometimes they seem sane, and sometimes they don't--but where is that dividing line where you make the leap from harmlessly whacky to helplessly mad? This question all the more disturbing in the days when a man could have his wife committed with the snap of a finger. If roles were reversed, and Rowlands held a job every day, what would Falk's reaction to her be? How unstable would he seem, caring for kids by strong arming them to have fun and feeding them beer dinners? Would she have him committed if she could?
Madness, also, could be mis-read cues. Is Rowlands truly mad, or is she a woman desiring of consistent attention from a husband whose mood changes on whim? Is she passively-aggressively asserting herself in an environment where true assertion gets shouted down? Maybe she is a bit mad--as her mannerisms suggest.
It's this questioning of the madness that makes the performances so harrowing. People don't fit into the surprisingly narrow definitions we love to use with them. Sometimes they swing from one category to another before we can re-evaluate their classification. Rowlands is so vulnerable you wish to go hold her, but you suspect that when you do she'd hold you back with both arms. Then, when you walked away she'd wish to be held again and the cycle repeats itself.