Written by: John Cassavetes
Directed by: John Cassavetes
Starring: Gena Rowlands, Peter Falk, Fred Draper
My rating is simple, Watch It, It Depends, Skip it. Read my previous movie reviews!
A woman's erratic behavior causes her husband to commit her to a psychiatric treatment, but her husband is ill-prepared to be a homemaker.
The tone is chillingly real. I'm glad I watched it, but wouldn't want to watch it again. It's an uncomfortable movie dealing with mental illness. It doesn't make light of Mabel's mental illness, but no one knows how to help her or even relate. Those moments are agonizing. Ignorance leads to mistreatment, and no one is willing to stand up for her.
The movie focuses on the marriage of Nick (Peter Falk) and Mabel (Gena Rowlands). This feels almost too real, like a camera was set inside someone's home. The slow pace lets you put yourself in the characters minds and begin thinking about their actions and how you would react.
Nick brings his coworkers home for a meal after working all night. At first Mabel seems odd, but her behavior soon makes everyone uncomfortable as it goes beyond flirting to a fascination. You see what Nick lives with. She's not crazy in a comical way, it's scary. She's often bewildered, unaware of her own actions. Nick wants to do what's best, but isn't sure what that is. Nick doesn't know how to handle his wife, resorting to anger and violence. His reactions are terrible.
This is a tough watch. Gena Rowlands is thoroughly convincing. This is a really good movie, but one I'll only watch once. Towards the end you realize that Nick and Mabel will never have a Hollywood normal life. She has an illness and needs understanding, but it's unlikely she'll get that from Nick. That's life, so the movie indicates. While he demands she be normal, he couldn't manage normal while she was getting treatment. While he regarded her as crazy, she ran the household better than he.
One of the most brutal scenes is towards the end. Nick is upset that Mabel isn't acting "normal." He wanted her to get better, but now is upset she's not acting like she usually does. Mabel is being pulled in two directions. She wants to act normal, but also wants to appease Nick. She meekly asks her father, "Dad, will you please stand up for me?"
Her father thinks she's crazy and is used to treating her like a child. He rises from his seat. He takes he request literally, unaware that she's pleading for help. She knows she's not right, but she gets no help. No one understand or attempts to understand.
I have to imagine this is one of the most authentic portrayals of mental illness in film. The ending is heartbreaking, because no relief is in sight for Mabel. She just has to deal with it by herself.