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Personal Velocity (15)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: 2

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 their lives.

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 for itself.

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.

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