What a curious thing it is to listen to a man read from the pages of Rebecca Miller’s female-empowering Personal Velocity. Then again, Miller’s big-screen adaptation of her first novel is full of similarly fascinating juxtapositions. John Ventimiglia’s narration (reminiscent of Ricky Jay’s for Magnolia and Alec Baldwin’s for The Royal Tenenbaums) is both wry and disinterested enough to undermine what initially reeks of Lifetime. In the first of the film’s three stories, Delia (Kyra Sedgwick) seemingly reclaims the power she once wielded as a teenage floozy when she runs away from her abusive husband. Though Delia is strong enough not to return to her husband despite those pesky flashbacks to happier times, she dubiously negotiates power by satisfying and throwing aside a horny young teen. Nonetheless, her hopelessness is overwhelming and the segment’s lack of closure is indicative of the difficulty of her struggle. Parker Posey’s Greta is a happily married cookbook editor who turns into her father when she lands a big time gig with a famous writer. Greta’s job comes to mirror her own controlling nature and, most spectacularly, her problems with fidelity. That she uses her new job to seduce an old flame is frighteningly indicative of her lack of self-esteem. The final story has Fairuza Balk picking up a hitchhiker on her way to seeing her distant mother. Whatever the tale lacks in focus is more than made up by the strange way in which Miller subtly and remarkably equates an abortion to a carjacking. In the end, Miller’s women are less in need of independence from the men in their lives than they are in need of breaking free from themselves. Personal Velocity is politically conflicted and while this is a minor work, there’s no denying the potency of the strange, fleeting brew of hopeful perseverance and hopeless closure that Miller creates.
- United Artists
- 90 min
- Rebecca Miller
- Rebecca Miller
- Kyra Sedgwick, Parker Posey, Fairuza Balk, David Warshofsky, Tim Guinee, Wallace Shawn, Lou Taylor Pucci, Seth Gilliam, John Ventimiglia
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