FEMALE PERVERSIONS (director/writer: Susan Streitfeld; screenwriter: Julie Hebert/based on the non-fiction book Female Pervasions: The Temptations of Emma Bovary by Louise J. Kaplan; cinematographer: Teresa Medina; editors: Curtiss Clayton/Leo Trombetta; music: Debbie Wiseman; cast: Tilda Swinton (Eve Stephens), Amy Madigan (Madelyn Stephens), Lisa Jane Persky (Margot), Paulina Porizkova (Langley Flynn), Marra Racz (Earthwoman), Dale Shuger (Edwina), Karen Sillas (Renee), Laila Robins (Emma), Frances Fisher (Annuniciata), Clancy Brown (John), Marcia Cross (Beth Stephens); Runtime: 108; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Mindy Affrime; Universal; 1996-USA/Germany)
“I could never warm up to any of the characters or their perversions or neuroses.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Former talent agent turned filmmaker Susan Streitfeld (“Golf in the Kingdom”) directs and co-writes with Julie Hebert this messy psychological feminist film about two thirty-something sisters. An attempt is made to define how women are forced to fit into a patriarchal society and how painful it is to sometimes have to hide their sexuality if it goes against the norm. It’s based on the non-fiction book Female Pervasions: The Temptations of Emma Bovary by the psychoanalyst Louise J. Kaplan.
The drama misfires when ambitiously trying for an in-depth examination of the female psyche, as it lacks profundity. But is entertaining when it pulls back some of its punches and serves up a smart-ass talky soap, as it tunes into high-powered LA lawyer, Eve Stephens (Tilda Swinton), who is comfortable making it with men or women. The ambitious lawyer, just winning a major case of litigation, has been recommended for a judgeship, that requires an interview with the governor. But during that time her estranged younger sister, Madelyn (Amy Madigan), a driven doctoral candidate at UCLA, gets nabbed in the small-town of Fullerton for shoplifting lingerie, and after not seeing sis for two years, big sister works to get little sis out of jail. Eve is dismayed to learn that Maddy is a kleptomaniac–explained by crusty old-fashioned textbook psychologists to be a form of penis envy. The sibling reunion brings back mostly bad memories and a catfight, as the ladies have taken different paths in life and don’t care for each other. Eve gets blind-sided when viewing family home movies and finding her gruff dad had abused his now deceased wife (Marcia Cross). Meanwhile Eve has an empty but exciting sexual relationship with a hunky unconventional businessman named John (Clancy Brown) and begins a steamy lesbian affair with her new neighbor, a psycho-analyst named Renee (Karen Sillas).
I could never warm up to any of the characters or their perversions or neuroses, and found it hard to sink my teeth into its heaviness and its pretenses. It was all about telling us, whether true or not, how much more difficult it still is for a women to fit into a man’s world. A message I could buy into, but I couldn’t buy into how tiresome the pic looked despite Swinton providing her usual good performance and all the passion on display through graphic heated affairs. But it failed to leave me thinking more about gender relationships, as I suppose it thought it would. Instead I found its audacious presentation weakest when it went into a dross fantasy role playing mode and strongest when allowing us to witness how crafty a woman must be to climb the ladder of success.
REVIEWED ON 5/31/2013 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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