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Film review: Another Woman

"Another Woman" is Woody Allen's drama that was released in major urban centers at the end of last year, the story of a woman (Gena Rowlands) who has recently turned 50 and, after eavesdropping on a troubled pregnant woman (Mia Farrow) in session with her psychiatrist, finds herself reflecting on her own life.

As you might expect if you've ever seen Allen's serious films (in which he does not appear), "Another Woman" is stark in its visual conception (photographed by Ingmar Bergman's cinematographer Sven Nykvist) and full of talky angst-ridden scenes where characters confront each other with universal truths that most people don't really express aloud. But then Allen often has his characters talking as if they are in psychiatric consultation instead of dinner conversation. It's just that in his humorous films the wit overcomes the device.

If ever there was a film testament to Allen's having been cloistered in Manhattan with its urbanite pseudo-sophisticates for too long, "Another Woman" is it. In flashbacks we see Ian Holm hosting a party for his bride-to-be (Rowlands) when suddenly his ex-wife barges in to return some items and chides him in front of people who "used to be my friends too" for having committed adultery. Rowlands' sister-in-law meets her on the street and asks to borrow money, then promptly informs Rowlands that her brother has always hated her. When Rowlands accidentally bumps into an old friend from her youth (Sandy Dennis) she gets a lecture on how cold and calculating she's always been.

Granted, some of this is supposed to be metaphorical and there are theatrical moments that play out such confrontations in a more acceptable manner, but the dialogue is often as arch and the drama as phony as the affluent pseudo-intellectual characters that make up this piece. Then, just when you're prepared to hate it all, Allen creates a scene that is quite touching and real, such as Gene Hackman trying to talk Rowlands out of marrying Holm, or Rowlands' conversations with Holm's young daughter (Martha Plimpton), or Rowlands' father (John Houseman) unrepentant about his rigidity toward his children, yet in Rowlands' fantasies quite repentant. And the movie's final scenes are also genuinely moving.

It makes for a decidedly uneven, occasionally fascinating, but ultimately rather frustrating experience. Allen fans, however, should remain intrigued. It is rated PG for a profanity or two and some frank sexual talk.