The Three Faces of Eve Movie Review
Joanne Woodward's performance in the title role is pretty much the only reason to see the film today -- mental illness has been handled with much more grace in the years since. Woodward deftly handles the difficult task of running through three characters: At first she's Eve White, a troubled and plain young woman, and soon enough Eve Black, a brazen hussie, comes to the forefront, doing battle with Eve White. As her psyche continues to degenerate, a third identity, Jane, comes to the forefront. Eve's psychiatrists are offered up as heroes -- looking back at them today reveals that they're all total chumps -- and through a series of absurd hypnotisms she eventually comes to grips with her past abuse and, like that, gets well.
The film merited an Oscar for Woodward -- it would be one of the most notable films in which an actor earned the award for playing a mentally ill character, but the film is surprisingly bereft of any other notable qualities. (The movie earned four nominations from various groups, all for Woodward's performance.)
Why the snub? Ultimately, The Three Faces of Eve has the same doomsaying breathlessness of, say, Reefer Madness or a highschool film reel. Even an oblivious 1957 audience must have seen that. Writer/director Nunnally Johnson wrote some 60 films over his career but directed only a handful in the 1950s (notably The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit). He's better off with a typewriter, sealing his doom with Cooke's wide-eyed diatribe from frame one. The film makes no serious statement about mental illness, but it doesn't really try to either. It's just a showcase for his leading lady.
Put it aside and watch the film for Woodward. She never reached heights like this before or since.
The new DVD includes a feature commentary from film historian Aubrey Solomon.
Aka The 3 Faces of Eve.