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    Troupe therapy

    "Group" is a daring experiment, bringing together an ensemble of actresses with thorny psychological issues and letting them at each other in a would-be group-therapy setting.


    Why do you think you're having trouble describing your feelings about the film "Group"? . . . I see. And how long have you been having these feelings? . . . Hmmmm. . . . Why don't we spend today's session exploring your relationship with the film? Fine.

    Directed by: Marilyn Freeman.
    Cast: Carrie Brownstein, Kari Fillipi, S. Ann Hall, Vicki Hollenberg, Tracy Kirkpatrick, Nomy Lamm, Ruby Martin, Lola Rock N' Rolla, Tony Wilkerson..

    Related links: Official site
    "Group" is easy to explain and hard to review. It's an almost-reality-based peek into a therapy group (in Seattle, apparently) in which 10 or so women pour out their deepest anxieties, cattily snipe at one another, throw fits, laugh, cry, hug, and perhaps make a smidgen of progress on their issues. At least half a dozen cameras placed around the room catch the whole thing on film, and the scenes are shown six views at a time, in a simultaneous split-screen approach reminiscent of (though not as complicated as) 2000's "Timecode."

    I believed from beginning to end that it was a real-life therapy group, but press releases reveal that it's a cleverly disguised acting exercise. The producers and actors devised a set of characters for the piece, gave them personalities and loose narratives (some based on themselves, maybe?), and then set the actors loose to develop the "group" scene on their own.

    Dominating the scene visually and emotionally is Nomi Lamm as an overweight, blue-haired, omnisexual punk amputee with cancer in her past. (Her character doesn't seem as preposterous on film as it does in that last sentence.) Doing her best to sabotage the whole proceeding is a snide New Yorker (Lola Rock N' Rolla) who, despite talking constantly, isn't doing anything to work on her real issue — why she needs to prop up her ego by riding herd over everyone around her. "Pull that stick outta your ass and I'm sure we'll get along," she tells another participant in a typical moment.

    Also sitting around the circle are a rape survivor and a young woman (Carrie Brownstein) whose dad has just left her mom to take up with a young chick — she finds the idea of having a stepmom her own age "disgusting." And one of the best-realized characters is a surprise — a devoutly religious and seemingly simple blonde (Tony Wilkerson) who says she's offended by the group's blunt talk about sex but turns out to have a very complicated sexual awareness herself.

    So how do I ultimately feel about "Group"? Does it work? Is it a brilliant theatrical exercise? Does it expose its characters in clever, new ways while providing a satisfyingly voyeuristic peek into a quasi-real psychological battleground? Is it fascinating or dull, insightful or exploitative? Well, I feel that . . . what? . . . That didn't seem like 45 minutes. . . . But I was just . . . Well, yes, I guess we'll have to . . .

    JULY 10, 2002

    Reader comments on Group:

  • "group"   from aya, Jan 19, 2003

  • Post a comment on "Group"