A Woman Under the Influence is a harrowing yet unfulfilling glimpse into a family suffering from the stresses of 1970s America. Mabel is nervous, awkward, and insecure about herself. Nick switches between concern and control for his wife. Mabel lashes out against a world she doesn’t understand. Nick caves into the pressures of his peers. Their kids know that mommy ain’t right and daddy ain’t fair. Their parents know that they have issues. There is just one problem.
The problem is that this is an actor’s movie.
The actors are too bombastic. Each main actor performs with the awkward gusto of a student trying to impress the teacher. This leads to meaningless lines such as Nick’s mother yelling “This woman is crazy!” John Cassavetes panders to fans of drama, like Michael Bay panders to fans of action, for the sin of displaying psychological issues for entertainment rather than for recovery or self-discovery. Showing moments where Nick gives beer to their kids, or where Mabel encourages the kids to die, without direct repercussion is just as irresponsible as either moment.
We see how stress destroys one average American family and yet we don’t see how stress can be managed effectively.
Rating: ★★☆☆☆ [2/5]