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Lions Gate presents
Women in Film (2000)

"Prose is so endangered at this point that John f***ing Grisham should be called experimental."
- Phyllis (Beverly D'Angelo)

Review By: Jon Danziger   
Published: September 24, 2002

Stars: Beverly D'Angelo, Portia De Rossi, Marianne Jean-Baptiste
Director: Bruce Wagner

Manufacturer: 3rd Sector Entertainment
MPAA Rating: R for strong sex-related dialogue, language, some nudity and drug content
Run Time: 01h:28m:41s
Release Date: August 06, 2002
UPC: 031398810926
Genre: drama


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
C- CB-C+ D+

DVD Review

It's pretty hard to prove you're deep by making a movie about shallow people talking shallowly, but that seems to be the exercise that's been undertaken here. Bruce Wagner, the writer/director of Women in Film, seems simultaneously entranced and repelled by the culture of Hollywood—as is true of his characters, he seems to love namedropping, but to hate himself for doing it. Ultimately, though, this movie feels more like an extended stunt than a story worthy of your attention.

The conceit of the piece is this: three women, all connected to the movie business in some way, deliver rambling monologues directly to the camera, going about the very self-conscious business of baring their souls. Phyllis (Beverly D'Angelo) is a producer, whose dream project is a remake of Pasolini's Teorema, but who would rather spend her time in an Oprahesque confessional about her father molesting her. Sara (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) is a casting director with a new baby; her son Samson was born blind, and her speeches are letters to her little boy. She's all too eager to commodify her suffering, though, and with the help of the baby's godmother, Holly Hunter, secures a book deal for her missives to Samson. Gina (Portia de Rossi) is easily the most nauseous of the three—a masseuse with absurd literary pretensions, she mispronounces the words she must have learned while browsing the dictionary, and makes a very big deal out of tapping into and taking for herself the energy of many of her high-powered clients.

Wagner seems like a smart guy—it's evident in his books, like I'm Losing You—but overall this is a pretty facile exercise. That's not to deny that some of it is wickedly funny. Gina, for instance, is hot to get an appointment with the shrink to the stars, but she can't get her phone calls returned, because she's insufficiently prominent. So Gina masquerades as an A-list screenwriter, and ends up attacking the therapist, whom she nastily refers to as the "Jil Sander-Clad Mind Whore." It's funny to read it once, but not to pull you through a feature film, and that kind of wit is no substitute for a story.

And it's a movie that mistakes emoting and nudity for intimacy. There are many scenes of these women naked in the shower, naked on the toilet, crying for the camera—but after a while you find yourself hungry for some on-screen human interaction, and you can't help but think that these actresses, D'Angelo especially, deserve better. In many respects an annotated version of the screenplay would be more interesting than the movie—if you congratulate yourself for getting all the references in a Dennis Miller monologue, you might enjoy this film in that same parlor-game sort of way. But if you want to learn some truths about the human heart, this isn't the movie for you.

Rating for Style: C-
Rating for Substance: C

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: The production seems to have made a small budget go a long way, and the Chateau Marmont is photographed especially well. Transfer to DVD is fair, with some debris, but generally it's pretty solid.

Image Transfer Grade: B-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno


Audio Transfer Review: The women are clear enough, though the dynamics can be askew with the musical score. Some hissing is evident throughout; it's not an especially accomplished movie, in auditory terms, but it's more than adequate.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in Spanish, English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring Ten Tiny Love Stories, Lovely & Amazing
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The three trailers on the disc aren't well labeled on the menu—click on the Lion's Gate logo if you want to get to them. Those and the subtitles are the only extras here.

Extras Grade: D+

 

Final Comments

Far too clever for its own good, Women in Film displays its intelligence without much storytelling craft. If your idea of a good book is this morning's Variety, check it out; otherwise, you can safely pass.

 


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