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'A Woman Under The Influence' may be a misnomer. It seems to me this is an entire family under the influence. The story of a family living in LA, and trying to live a life of quiet and not so quiet desperation. Peter Falk plays Nick Longhetti, he works for the city, and he is on call all the time to help fix the water works and anything else that breaks down. Gena Rowland's plays Mabel, a woman put together on a tight string. They have three children, and after viewing this film you wonder if they will grow up as alcoholics in a disheveled world.

John Cassavettes directed this film, and a superb film it is. The director's mother and Gena Rowland's mother also play the mother-in-laws. But the performance to behold is Gena Rowland. She has become Mabel, the woman trying to find her life in a crazy world. Her husband, Nick is also has problems,abusive at times, unclear in his mind, trying to understand his wife,but unable to see the big picture. No one in the family knows how to deal with Mabel, and they bring in the family doctor, who has no presence.

This is a film of a family on the brink, and the performances are so well done, it is difficult to think through the entire film without reacting to the performances. This film stays with you. Why nit did not win every Academy Award I do not understand.

Recommended. prisrob 01-27-16
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A Woman Under The Influence is one of the great films, not just of the 70s but since the beginning of cinema, it has such grandeur in its intimacy, such emotion, and it fearlessly sustains this over two and a half hours. Gena Rowlands gives a performance that no adjective can adequately describe, it takes you so much into the heart and soul of this woman who seems to be having such difficulty keeping it together - although I remember Cassavetes saying in an interview that she was quite normal and that it would be just as reasonable to see the husband and others as really having the problems, not her. She just didn't fit into society's expectation of how a wife and mother should behave ... however one sees this - and the question is surely at the heart of the film - Gena Rowlands and Peter Falk make one of the most memorable and touching screen couples, getting a tremendous range of feeling and tone into the portrayal of these lives - and humour as well. I'm sure anyone who has seen the film will forever think of the name Mabel in a different way; Gena Rowlands becomes her so completely and the camera just doesn't flinch, so she becomes one of the most complete embodiments of a certain mode of being and feeling that has ever been caught on screen. It's a film that has to be seen by anyone who really cares about what the medium can do - ideally on the big screen, but failing that, on DVD.
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on 22 May 2017
fair
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on 23 May 2017
great
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on 6 January 2010
This is an excellent film by John Cassavetes, it's a must see for all budding actors and filmmakers out there. Cassavetes was way ahead of his time in his improv working methods and there is so much to learn from viewing this film, which stands out for me from the rest of his work. Peter Falk is a genius, and this film is a testament to his underrated talent. Gina Rowlands and the rest of the cast give outstanding realistic performances in what is an innovative and original piece of filmmaking.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 29 February 2016
Gena Rowlands’ performance as the (apparently) mentally unstable wife and mother, Mabel Longhetti, in husband and writer-director, John Cassavetes’ 1974 film is simply unforgettable. Rowlands was beaten to the Oscar that year by Ellen Burstyn (for Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore) – another great performance certainly, but not (for me) one that commands the screen to quite the same extent that Rowlands does here. The actress’ interplay with the impressive Peter Falk’s (uptight, preoccupied) construction worker husband, Nick, is totally compelling, as are her traumatic scenes with her three young children, who all do a remarkable job in their playful and loving depictions here. Without direct experience of the issues being depicted here, it is, of course, difficult to be absolutely sure of the authenticity of any 'fictitious characterisation’, but Rowlands’ mix of the obsessive, eccentric, meditative, deluded, loving, caring, fractious, vulnerable, desperate, depressed, resigned, paranoid and even offbeat humour never fails to convince.

It’s hardly surprising that Cassavetes had difficulty securing commercial backing for the film. The man’s unconventional (often oblique) approach to storytelling and his choice of 'unglamorous’ subject-matter are not the stuff of Hollywood and AWUTI’s episodic, uncompromising and harrowing (2½ hour) narrative is about as far as you could get from today’s CGI-dominated, shoot-‘em-up multiplex fare (in fact, plaudits should go the 1970s Academy for nominating both Rowlands and Cassavetes, the latter for Best Director). Here, we get the film-maker’s trademark quasi-documentary, 'improvisational-seeming’, long-take, naturalistic look-and-feel complemented with a superb soundtrack – original piano music by Bo Harwood, plus operatic excerpts (mainly La Bohème) – which (maybe unnecessarily, given the subject matter) enhances the film’s emotional impact.

A core element of Cassavetes’ film is its focus on 'ordinary, everyday’ (here, working-class) folk and their varying reactions to Mabel’s (and the film’s) central issue. A standout scene is that early on in the film during which Mabel attempts to 'socialise’ at the family home, to embarrassing effect, with her husband’s co-workers – apart from prompting the unveiling of 'unlikely’ operatic singing talent around the dinner table, the episode descends into fractious chaos. The intimacy of the 'family feel’ to proceedings is enhanced by Cassavetes casting a number of his relatives, including his mother Katherine, particularly impressive as Nick’s stern mother, Margaret, and by the casting of Rowlands’ mother, Lady, as Mabel’s mother Martha. Any pleas for light relief from the film’s dark themes pretty much fall on deaf ears, I’m afraid, a rare exception being the beautifully tender scene in which Nick applies a sticking plaster to Mabel’s hand.

Comparator films? For levels of trauma I was reminded of Ken Loach’s Ladybird, Ladybird and Gary Oldman’s Nil By Mouth. Subject matter – One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, naturalistic style – perhaps Robert Altman (particularly Nashville). But really, Cassavetes’ film stands alone for bravery and originality.

The 2012 BFI release contains both Blu-Ray and DVD, interviews with Peter Falk and Elaine Kagan (‘secretary’ to Cassavetes), plus a 30-page booklet on the film.
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on 8 October 2012
Gena Rowlands and Peter Falk both give mesmerising performances. Although the movie is 2.5 hours long, the time flies by because of its hypnotic nature. Cassavetes never bogs down the movie with lingering exposition. It's just raw, pure emotion.
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on 10 March 2001
Shot and released back in 1974, Woman is a searingly honest depiction of a wife and mother cruising along the edges of sanity. Cassavetes cast his own partner Gene Rowlands as 'the everyday housewife' and was rewarded with a power-house performance which remains a career best. Close friend and co-hort Peter Falk filled the role of Rowlands' husband, getting a rare chance to demonstrate his skill and sensitivity as an actor with a striking protrayal of a working joe suddenly confronted with the unknown. The story is a simple narrative following the woman's struggle with her inner demons, balanced with the subsequent effect on her small family which is thrown into near turmoil without her at the helm. This is a haunting film, lovingly made and every inch an equal to the following year's Oscar shower, One flew over the Cuckoo's nest (also dealing with mental health). Futhermore, the movie has aged remarkably well; no doubt due to the fact that modern-day living - house, car, pet etc. - remains largely unchanged. A woman under the influence is a testament to Cassavetes' gift and bravery as a filmmaker and there is quality right down the line. Gene Rowlands rightly won herself an Oscar for her journey into darkness and helped ensure that this film ranks along the finest of 70's cinema.
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on 2 May 2017
outdated and boring.
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on 16 July 2001
This is the kind of movie that forces conversation afterwards. It is difficult to describe the film without giving away the story. The acting is extremely good. Peter Falk plays a man/husband that we have all sadly seen before. His co-star produces one of the best roles that I have seen. This is a don't miss film
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