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
Copyright © 2002 Steve Rhodes