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A Woman Under the Influence 

(1974) Written and directed by John Cassavetes


“Don’t call me ‘Ma’ Nick! My name is Mabel! I don’t like to be called ‘Ma!’”

Gena Rowlands is FANTASTIC as Mabel! She plays the role with such exactness, down to her face and hand gestures! In all, the film so poignantly and specifically details the bullshit women have to go through, and the difficulties some women may have in coping with the indecencies of men and society. Although Mabel’s madness may actually stem from mental illness, the film also leans towards showing audiences that the pressures pushing Mabel to lose her self-control are mostly from the roles forced upon her–mother, wife, daughter, cook, host, servant…etc. She has no self other than these roles. And then what happens? She’s treated and talked to as if she is NOTHING and used for the pleasures of men. OF COURSE SHE’S MAD (plays Solange).

Peter Falk as Nick, Mabel’s husband, also gives a spot-on performance.  This film, like Opening Nights, also has a SLAP. Falk is a beast. Seems like he is just screaming the whole time in the film. Ha! He is determined to have everyone do things HIS WAY and he is intense about making it happen! I actually find him pretty funny is some scenes. 

But what I like the most about this film is that it is not just about Mabel, the “woman under the influence.” It’s also about a bunch of other things–family life, insecurity, losing one’s masculinity/femininity, loss of complete self, parenting, and confusion in a world where you must know. 

I sort of like Cassavetes lack of structure or clear goal in his films. You just have to follow the film every second. But even if you do daydream for two minutes, you’ll be able to re-enter the movie again with no problem, at least I think, because it’s all one big scene with free running themes in the background.

Also– that one black guy singing opera is great! And Mabel’s reaction!! haha! And the other scene at the dinner table, talking about BIG ASSES is funny too! But I think one of my favorite scenes is the towards the end…with the kids…

Lastly, Nick’s mother is actually played by Cassavetes’s real mother, Katherine Cassavetes, which i find pretty cool! She’s great too!

-Jasmine Celeste

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