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    Personal Velocity


    "Personal Velocity" features three smartly written portraits of women in crisis.


    The full title of Rebecca Miller's "Personal Velocity" is "Personal Velocity: Three Portraits," and that better defines what the film is all about: three snapshots of three quite different yet similarly independent women on the run from what life has dealt them — domestic abuse, marital ambivalence, and familial rejection — bang bang bang, one after the other with no questions asked.

    Written and directed by: Rebecca Miller.
    Cast: Kyra Sedgwick, Parker Posey, Fairuza Balk, Ron Leibman, John Ventimiglia..

    Related links: Official site | All of David N. Butterworth's reviews at Rotten Tomatoes
    The film runs about 90 minutes and each woman, each portrait, is given equal screen time (I didn't clock each segment but it certainly felt that way) and it's done simply and straight and well.

    There's a sequence in the third segment that's referred to via a radio broadcast in the first two, but other than that there's no clever linkage or forced ties between the stories other than the theme of three women trying to escape the troubles of their respective lives. How many filmmakers would have artificially brought our protagonists together at the end, or revealed that they were all sisters, for example? Credit the director for not taking the easy way out. In that regard, each story stands alone, as an individual (if aggravatingly short) film unto itself.

    The overall film's strengths include its poetic passages (Miller based "Personal Velocity" on her book of the same name, and her keen writing style is very much in evidence; it's no surprise to know she's the daughter of playwright Arthur Miller) and its casting: Kyra Sedgwick, Parker Posey, and Fairuza Balk are all excellent. Less effective is a substandard voiceover (by John Ventimiglia; a woman would have seemed a more empathetic choice) that grows on you after a while but shouldn't have to, some predictably shaky handheld camera shots that scream "low budget!" and, oddly enough, too little definition.

    The actors are so comfortable with the material, and the director equally comfortable with her performers, that a mere half an hour to tell each tale feels like a ripoff. Just when you're beginning to get into each portrait, it ends.

    In "1. Delia," Sedgwick ("Phenomenon," "Singles") plays a spunky, working-class mother of three who finally ups and leaves her abusive husband, moving her brood to a part of upstate New York where she can recapture the sexual power she had as a teenager. In "2. Greta," Posey ("The Anniversary Party," "Best in Show") is a bottom-rung Manhattan cookbook editor who hits it big when a famous (and particularly attractive) author requests her services. Her newly found fame and fortune forces Greta to question her relationship with her terminally nice husband. And in "3. Paula," Balk ("Almost Famous," "The Waterboy") heads home to her estranged family carrying the child of a boyfriend she no longer seems to want. On the way she picks up a young hitchhiker who bears more than a few scars of his own.

    There's definitely no fat here; Miller has pulled the good stuff and found the right women to deliver her goods. And while "Personal Velocity" (as a work of cinematic fiction) doesn't always have the maturity to stand up to its own convictions, Sedgwick, Posey, and Balk make the whole experience ultimately worthwhile.

    DECEMBER 17, 2002

    Reader comments on Personal Velocity:

  • Miller's movie   from chuckwheat, Jun 17, 2003
  • Re: Miller's movie   from Matt, Jul 16, 2003
  • [no subject]   from , Jul 16, 2003
  • comment   from harri, Jan 19, 2004
  • to express our tribute to Mr.Arthur Miller   from lengyel gyrgy, Feb 18, 2005

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