Housewife and mother Mabel Longhetti (Gena Rowlands) is devoted to her construction worker husband Nick (Peter Falk) and tries her best to please him. Though Nick loves Mabel and appreciates her efforts, he grows concerned over his wife’s mental condition as she exhibits strange, volatile behavior, especially around other people.
Mabel is not crazy, she’s unusual.
A Woman Under the Influence is a fascinating film, from the way it was made and to the execution itself. Director John Cassavetes used his own money to make the movie as no studio thought anyone would want to see it. Cassavetes was very resourceful in his approach though, and even had his mother and mother-in-law act in the film instead of hiring actors. The passion he and his crew put in the project shows, and Gena Rowlands and Peter Falk give very powerful performances. The film’s cinéma vérité style really highlights their harrowing portrayals of a married couple in turmoil, sometimes making it hard to watch because of how real it all feels.
Prior to my viewing of A Woman Under the Influence, I had only seen Gena Rowlands in The Notebook, and had only seen John Cassavetes’ work as an actor in Rosemary’s Baby and The Killers. Earlier this week TCM devoted a night of films starring or created by this year’s Honorary Oscar recipients, one of whom was Rowlands, and it only made sense that they would air her most acclaimed film as an actress. I’m glad I kicked off this year’s Blind Spot series with this particular film, as I’ve been meaning to check out more films from the Cassavetes-Rowlands partnership, and A Woman Under the Influence has definitely encouraged me to get around to them sooner than later.
A Woman Under the Influence (1974)
Directed by: John Cassavetes
Starring: Gena Rowlands, Peter Falk
Oscar Nominations: Best Actress (Gena Rowlands); Best Director
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