MRS. PARKER AND THE VICIOUS CIRCLE is the true story of Dorothy
Parker (usually called Mrs. Parker) and her literary friends that met
every day for conversation at the Algonquin Hotel in New York. They
always ate at a round table which was saved every day for the dozen or
so of New York's literary elite. There were writers, painters, actors,
comedians, and most of all, literary critics. They wrote for many
different magazines from Vanity Fair to the one they started, The New
The movie happens mainly in the 20s with the focal point being the
daily gathering at the Algonquin for lunch. Dorothy had a room there
where she was usually delinquent with the bill but where she was not
kicked out for obvious reasons. She made her money writing what she
referred to as little "do-das" for various magazines. She was a
critic, an author and a poet, but most of all she was famous for her
round table conversations.
The glue that keeps the film together is black and white footage
of Dorothy in the 1940s and 1950s. She talks briefly about her life or
she recites a short poem of hers and then we are back in color in the
The artists at the round table were sort of the second string of
that era. You will recognize the names, but they were not the best.
Although the image one has of them is discussing Kant and Nietzsche and
of the meaning of life, in fact, the conversations were only of the
shallow variety. The banter around the table was nothing more than
sarcastic one liners. They had an obsession with being with each other
and yet all they could do was issue trite put downs of one another.
Dorothy and all of the artist were heavy and constant drinkers
from sun up to sun down. They agreed that as one of the writers put
it, "the only way to cure a hangover is never stop drinking." Dorothy's
first husband was also a morphine drug addict. She lived her life
extremely depressed and tried suicide on many occasions. One doctor
asked them why the artist group felt the need to be with each other all
of the time and why were they afraid of enjoying life and being happy.
What makes this show worth seeing is the performance by Jennifer
Jason Leigh (remember her as the bad girl in SINGLE WHITE FEMALE?).
Her performance deserves an academy award nomination. You can feel
Mrs. Parker's depression and the utter emptiness of her life. She
jumps from one man's bed to another without managing to really ever
enjoy herself. Finally, I especially liked the accent, low and raspy,
that Leigh used.
Most of the show gets a little tedious and long after a while. Do
you like hanging around with a bunch of drunks, albeit some brilliant
ones? Do you like sharing your evenings with people who are scared of
being anything other than shallow? Want to fall for a beautiful lover
who is so depressed she wants to slash her wrists frequently? Accurate
this all may be, but it was a bit much for me after a while.
MRS. PARKER AND THE VICIOUS CIRCLE runs too long at 2:05. It is
correctly rated R for some low key, natural nudity, massive
drunkenness, and one drug usage scene. Older and mature teenagers
could probably see it if they like. Solely on the basis of Jennifer
Jason Leigh's performance, I do recommend this movie to you, and I give
it ** 1/2.
Copyright © 1994 Steve Rhodes