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"Personal Velocity"

Directed by Rebecca Miller.
Written by Rebecca Miller. 
Starring Kyra Sedgwick, Parker Posey and Fairuza Balk.
Release Year:  2002 
Review Date:  12/10/02 


For the first time in almost 150 reviews and essays this year, not a single person responded to the “Analyze That” review.  This tells me one of two things:  1) I didn’t send it out, but that is unlikely since it is in the Sent folder...or, 2) nobody gave a rat’s ass about the Crystal/De Niro pairing for the second go-round.

Anyway, a couple of times a year, I break from Justin Bell tradition and see a Damned Chick Flick.  Because I am perpetually single, I am not usually dragged to see Damned Chick Flicks with Significant Others, because I never have one!  (One of the few benefits, I guess.)  My Sunday night movie crew made the move for “Personal Velocity” and I took the bait.

I was pretty happy with the results.  A three-part arc based on the book of the same name, “Personal Velocity” deals with three unconnected women and their goings-on over the course of a day, a month, and a full year.  We get the month first, as Delia (Kyra Sedgwick) deals with spousal abuse and a worsening home situation with her three adolescent children.  In part two, 28-year-old book editor Greta (Parker Posey) takes us back over the course of the last year as she details why her sudden work success has affected her marriage to a classic good guy named Lee (Tim Guinee).  Finally, a runaway named Paula (Fairuza Balk) comes into the life of an abused teen and attempts to find out what happened to him over the course of a day filled with a visit to her mother’s and her possible involvement in an accidental manslaughter.

Now, this did win the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes, so somebody must have thought “Personal Velocity” was pretty good.  The first two segments of the film are excellent, riveting stuff.  Seriously, the first half-hour spent with Delia had me watching with my eyes wide open.  Sedgwick seems to have played characters like this before, and one can believe that she could rule the world with that lethal combination of attitude and sex appeal.  But, when she first gets pushed around by her husband Pete (Brian Tarantina), it just comes as a shock, even if you sense that it is coming.  Sedgwick embodies her character’s desperate situation well, and the way in which she wields her sexual power over a local teen at a diner made me think she would shame me, too.

The second segment of the film was my favorite, because although you might think it was a drama, for me it was a straight horror.  Whenever I watch films featuring nice guys that are about to get cheated on, I start to get scared.  You could put “Friday the 13th”, “Halloween” and “The Exorcist” together and it is STILL not scarier than watching Lee come home to a wife that he thinks loves him and supports him...when in fact, that wife is so self-absorbed and such a cheating whore that she is staying with him just out of convenience.  Ugh!  Posey is very good at this (again, playing a character that contains similar Posey elements to her roles from the recent past, including “Best in Show”) and you buy into the fact that every time she cheats, this will be “the last time she ever cheats on Lee”...kind of like those bad hangover days when you swear that you are “never going to drink again.”  Riiiiiiiight.

The third segment, featuring Balk’s character, is weak and it wasn’t the right way to end the film.  I probably would have stuck it in the middle, especially because its ending doesn’t make for a very good FILM ending, and at 85 minutes, the movie is quite trim and you would like to be sent away with something more entertaining than that.  Writer/director Rebecca Miller (she also wrote the book) also falls in love with close-ups in the final segment, and with her already-sketchy digital photography grainier and grainier in the rain-soaked conclusion, I just had a hard time watching the goings-on during that sequence.  By doing away with her narration as well, the third segment almost doesn’t fit into the whole movie.

But, see “Personal Velocity” anyway for the entertaining first two-thirds.  And, finally, some great female roles for everyone in a movie!

Rating:  $9.00 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09