Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Minnie and Moskowitz (1971)

          “There’s some kinda crazy going on that’s not right,” Minnie Moore exclaims during a harrowing argument with her would-be paramour, Seymour Moskowitz—and that pretty much sums up the problems with this shambling character piece written and directed by indie-cinema icon John Cassavetes. The original anti-Hollywood auteur, Cassavetes practiced a unique style of filmmaking in which actors built improvisations around his scene ideas, resulting in pictures short on story but long on unique behavior. In Minnie and Moskowitz, however, the behavior veers way too far in the direction of absurd hysterics and repetitive melodrama. So instead of seeming incisive and intimate, the picture feels shapeless and shrill.
          The basic story of lonely, middle-aged museum curator Minnie (Gena Rowlands) stumbling into love with eccentric parking-lot attendant Seymour (Seymour Cassel) is innocuous enough, but the characters spend so much time enmeshed in shrieking arguments that it’s as if they live in some parallel Method-acting universe where every emotion is expressed via primal-scream therapy or simply repeating the same words over and over again. (This excess gets even more tiresome during lengthy cameos by familiar character players Val Avery, Timothy Carey, and Cassavetes himself, all of whom play frightening grotesques.)
          The title characters are in nearly every scene, either alone or together, so the picture belongs to Cassavetes regular Cassel and the director’s real-life wife, Rowlands. Cassel’s performance is undisciplined and wild, a string of colorful but unbelievable behaviors assembled into a hodgepodge that feels less like a character than an overeager audition reel. Rowlands offers her usual grounded work, but the storyline saddles her with irritating behaviors like drinking to excess and talking about her feelings in such introspective detail that her stupid life choices feel incongruous with her personal insights.
          The idea that these characters are compatible with each other is the movie’s biggest and least convincing contrivance, more or less rendering the whole enterprise moot, and the film is so monotonously screechy that it’s a relief when the director’s mother, Katherine Cassavetes, shows up for a funny but stereotypical featured role toward the end of the picture as Seymour’s overbearing Jewish mother.

Minnie and Moskowitz: LAME

1 comment:

Will Errickson said...

I cannot even begin to comprehend the critical blurbs on that poster! "Human"?! The characters in this flick--as in so many Cassavetes flicks--behave so abnormally and so abominably it's as if we're watching an alien species.