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Personal Velocity

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Personal Velocity

Starring: Kyra Sedgwick, Parker Posey
Director: Rebecca Miller
Rated: R
RunTime: 86 Minutes
Release Date: November 2002
Genre: Drama

*Also starring: Fairuza Balk, Wallace Shawn, Leo Fitzpatrick, John Ventimiglia

Review by Steve Rhodes
3½ stars out of 4

PERSONAL VELOCITY: THREE PORTRAITS, written and directed by Rebecca Miller, is more like a great reading experience than it is a movie. Telling three brief but powerful stories about women with relationship problems, PERSONAL VELOCITY makes you feel like you're reading a great compendium of short stories in which vibrant images literally burst from the pages. The screen seems less like a physical medium and more like an extension of your subconscious. Enhancing your "reading" experience is the insightful and frequent narration by John Ventimiglia. After a while, you'll be convinced that his voice is your inner thoughts speaking to you.

You will be impressed by the strong acting talent that appears in these images that you have created in your mind. Kyra Sedgwick plays Delia, a white trash mother with an abusive husband. Parker Posey plays Greta, a Harvard educated editor who suffers from her own fidelity issues. And Fairuza Balk plays Paula, an ex-runaway who befriends an abused runaway. Each actress is terrific, but Sedgwick and Posey are given the best developed material with which to work.

Delia became the town slut in high school so that she could use sex as her personal weapon of power. In a couple of frighteningly realistic scenes of spousal abuse, the film shows that Delia is no longer in a position of power, which is surprising given that she once won a bar fight by breaking a chair over a guy's head. "She felt the other women's suffering like a vortex, pulling them into her own suffering," the narrator tells us when she finally seeks support in a women's shelter. The movie can also be quite funny. When she goes to work as a waitress, Delia keeps control over her environment with a strange moral compass. "If anyone was ever rude to her," the narrator explains, "she spat in their food -- sounded fair. She never did this if she had a cold."

The daughter of a bitter, hard driving father (Ron Leibman) who is a famous lawyer, Greta is a bit embarrassed to be working as merely a cookbook editor. She has a great husband who is employed as a fact checker for the New York Times. It's really a perfect marriage, but she is burdened with her father's infidelity genes. In this episode's most telling scene, Greta grasps her husband's shoulder from behind, and sheds an unseen tear. She is scared and saddened because she realizes, "She was going to dump her beautiful husband like a redundant paragraph."

The final episode just doesn't have the depth of writing of the first two but is still good as Paula tries without much luck to help an abused kid. PERSONAL VELOCITY is such a wonderful experience that it may tempt you to give up movies entirely in favor of the written word.

PERSONAL VELOCITY: THREE PORTRAITS runs a fast 1:26. It is rated R for "brief violence, some strong sexuality and language" and would be acceptable for teenagers.

Copyright 2002 Steve Rhodes

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