Personal Velocity Movie Review
First there's Delia (Kyra Sedgwick, consistently underrated for far too long), a tough cookie from hard knocks who must manage to break the cycle of family abuse without losing control in front of kids that have already seen Mommy cut down to size. Next is Greta (Parker Posey, fantastic in her most human role to date) who accidentally works her way up the corporate ladder, but also possibly out of a marriage that has lost all spark. Finally, Paula (Fairuza Balk, always interesting to watch) is living from one sign-from-above to the next after realizing she's pregnant.
Thankfully, writer/director Miller never attempts to have the three women cross paths, except through a brief radio report, so their stories can each hold sympathetic power without extraneous plot contrivances. Each sequence intelligently crafts the background events leading up to a particular decision, with each varying in terms of starting point and conclusion. To lead us from one thought-provoking track to the next is an inspired voiceover narration that speaks to the internal battles we all run through before making drastic changes. The acting is stirringly provocative, with rich, poignant dialogue to back it up.
Character driven stories often have one or more "moments" that lead to a particularly dramatic climax that seem to beg for Oscar consideration. Miller intelligently chooses for each woman to have such a time -- they are after all on the verge of something new -- but these scenes never involve the predictably heavy melodrama that can make you nauseous. For example, Delia's confrontation with the coordinator at the battered women's shelter is a priceless mixture of balls and vulnerability.
The singular possible flaw with Velocity is its lack of tension-easing laughter, though this is still reaching for criticism, considering the quick pace that is kept giving you little chance to brood on one negative note for long,. A handful of moments push a chuckle from the gut, but the general order of the film is honestly depicting how difficulties can maneuver us in new, unforeseen directions. Watching straight drama for so long can be weighty and tiresome, but Velocity manages to keep attention focused through economic editing and three leads that draw you in whether you can relate to their circumstances or not.
But influenced as we might be from past experiences, Personal Velocity is simply a refreshing character study about choice. Its strict, spare need to respect whole women, and not necessarily punish them for actions society at large might discourage, is the sort of powerful writing rarely seen for women these days, even when written by women (witness Ya-Ya Sisterhood). It's not trying to be an "issue" film, nor does it consciously manipulate you to think about any cataclysmic transcendentalist theorizing, but that's precisely why it may be so effective in emotional resonance.
Aka Personal Velocity: Three Portraits.
Velocity's fine, just keep it under 55.