How often have you seen an absolutely magnificent woman trash herself relentlessly over a jerk? Then you see HIM and wonder what all the fuss was about. Hollywood has supplied us with stunning examples of this phenomenon: observe Bette Davis or Joan Crawford work themselves into suicidal despair over assorted male contract players. Or watch Italy's Anna Magnani pine away because Ben Gazzara or Aldo Fabrizi doesn't care about her. Into this distinguished gallery of noble sufferers, please add Carmen Maura, the star of Pedro Almadovar's "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown."
Our favourite scene in the movie is when Carmen slugs the "feminist" attorney with whom her faithless lover is running away. With his merciless eye for the truth, Pedro Almodovar has correctly identified the "oh-so-politically-correct-&-oh-so-full-of crap", self-styled representative of women. She may be representing herself, but she certainly isn't speaking for women like Carmen who have to fight their battles alone with no help from phony "advocates".
In spite of his feminist critique, Almodovar's love and concern for women is evident in every frame of his film. Carmen achieves strength and understanding not by analyzing the politics of her pain but by working through it. The same woman who sets her bed on fire and then resignedly hoses it down can and does save lives, including her own. Almodovar's acceptance of human problems sets him apart from filmmakers who manipulate characters to illustrate their philosophies. Take a look at people as they are, good and bad, Almodovar's films tell us. Universal statements will emerge from such honest examination, not the other way around. "Women cry better," says Almodovar. "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown" is such a terrific comedy showcase for the great Carmen Maura, it's sad that it represents her last teaming with Almodovar to date.
© 2005 - Monica Sullivan - Air Date: 9/14/05
Woman on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown
Spain - 1988