Review by: Jack Foley | Rating:
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: In Conversation: Rebecca, Parker, Fairuza
& Kyra; On the set documentary; Original theatrical trailer;
Interactive menu screens; Chapter selections.
BASED upon writer/director Rebecca Miller's own book of short
stories, Personal Velocity claims to take an intimate look at
the lives of three women who are in the process of shaking up
Yet while the use of Dogme DV tactics lends proceedings an almost
voyeuristic feel, placing viewers in almost every scene, there
are times when Miller's direction lacks the clarity needed to
really make the stories compelling, lending the film an uneven
feel despite its powerful subject matter.
Linked only by a single piece of news footage (that of the death
of two men and injury to a woman), the film kicks off with Kyra
Sedgwick's Delia, an attractive, tough young mother-of-three,
whose husband (David Warshofsky) is prone to beating her. After
one particularly harrowing assault over the dinner table, Delia
decides to run away and attempts to make a new life for herself
and her children in a bid to reclaim her power.
Story two, meanwhile, finds Parker Posey's cookbook editor, Greta,
suddenly making it big in her publishing career and stuggling
with issues of fidelity. Her discontentment becomes such, however,
that she is eventually forced to make some tough decisions about
her marriage to the dependable but dull, Lee (Tim Guinee).
And finally there's Fairuza Balk's troubled 21-year-old, Paula,
newly pregnant and thrust into a self-crisis after a near-death
experience, who happens upon a badly beaten up boy who offers
her a new sense of hope.
All three actresses provide terrific performances in a film which
is as harrowing, at times, as it is occasionally funny. Yet as
watchable as it remains, Miller's directorial style can become
a little too clinical, often trying too hard to get up close and
personal when the subject matter ought to be allowed to speak
Her women, too, tip-toe the line between being sympathetic and
frustrating, while the voiceover which accompanies each story
(while sounding like the one used in The
Royal Tenenbaums), provides a constant reminder of the literary
source from which it is taken, serving to remind the viewer that
this is merely a piece of fiction.
That said, the middle section, involving Posey, rates among the
movie's finest, coming across as an even more barbed version of
Sex and the City, while providing Posey with some material to
really sink her teeth into.
This is when Personal Velocity is at its breeziest and most enjoyable,
providing plenty to genuinely engage the viewer with its everyday
issues of career and ambition, loyalty and fidelity.If the chapters
which book-end it aren't quite as accessible, perhaps it's because
the subject matter is that much tougher to get on with, or because
Miller's technique often gets in the way.
Personal Velocity, a former Sundance Film Festival favourite,
may be too arty and pretentious for mainstream audiences, but
for anyone seeking a break from the usual glut of soapy chick
flicks, this offers an interesting alternative - and one which
refuses to pull any of its punches.