“Half the women in this place are living on bourbon, cottage cheese, and alimony.”
A depressed new divorcee (Barbara Baxley) occupies her free time with diversions, including an affair with a married man (Herschel Bernardi) she doesn’t particularly like.
Made on weekends over a year’s time by a collective team of directors — Ben Maddow, Sidney Meyers, and Joseph Strick — this pseudo-documentary (only five professional actors were used) is both powerful and unique. As we watch the film’s protagonist, Judith McGuire (Baxley), move throughout her day, we gain an unfiltered glimpse at Los Angeles in the late 1950s: Judith gets her hair done on a weekly basis, has a drink at the bar after lunch, plays poker gratefully with strangers, watches a faith healing ceremony, attends a boxing match, and goes to a strip club with her “gentleman friend”.
Although there’s no real-time dialogue in the film, Judith’s back-and-forth commentary with her “angel” (or conscience), played by Gary Merrill, allows us to see behind the facade of her actions, and empathize with her unspoken thoughts and reactions: she refers to her unborn children (she used birth control) as “killed”; she longs for her philandering ex-husband to want her back; she admits that she’s seeing a married man “for revenge”; she agonizes over time passing painfully slowly. The cumulative effect is one of hypnotic fascination, as we eventually realize that Judith’s status as a divorcee is meant to represent the essential loneliness of all humans, and that she’s not alone in her despair.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Barbara Baxley in the lead role
- A powerful depiction of post-divorce despair
- Many memorable images of Americans attempting to assuage their loneliness and dissatisfaction
- The surreal transvestite scene near the end of the film
- Leonard Rosenman’s eclectic score
Yes. This unusual movie should be seen by all film fanatics at least once. It’s listed as a Cult Movie in the back of Peary’s book, but it probably doesn’t have much of a current following.