Projections - Movie Reviews

Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle

Dorothy Parker's jaunty image as a key literary figure of the 1920's and her alliance with other gifted artists of her era, via the Algonquin Round Table, are closely examined in this new film by Director Alan Rudolph.  In describing a photograph he studied of the famed wit Rudolph recalls, "Her shiny dark-rimmed eyes were full of information.  This woman clearly lived with the blues...as well as the pinks and the orchids."  Though witty and clever, her humorous inventions were set in motion by what James Thurber once called 'the dark hand of melancholy.'

Jennifer Jason Leigh is thoroughly convincing in her portrayal of the self-destructive Mrs. Parker.  As she says, "I wanted to be as true to her as I could, and thought if I could capture that specific quality in her voice, then I'm halfway there."  Parker was taught elocution in school and had a cultured voice and a unique way of phrasing things.  Leigh succeeded not only in adopting Parker's style of speech, but also in capturing her tone of voice.  Whether she was reciting one of her serious poems or uttering a sarcastic remark, the weariness of the artist rose to the surface.

Dorothy Parker was an independent woman, successfully competing with male writers at a time when women were just getting the right to vote.  Beneath her extraordinary talent, however, was a needy individual who sought love and support from men who were painfully unfaithful to her.  Her most satisfying and enduring relationship was with Robert Benchley (played superbly by Campbell Scott), a fellow critic at Vanity Fair who later became one of America's most beloved comics.  Although the two never consummated their love, they were of immense support to one and other.

The film will be entertaining to literary enthusiasts with its amusing depiction of the young writers, actors, musicians and painters who, as members of the Algonquin Round Table, served as pop icons of the 20s.  It is even more effective, however, in capturing the slow demise of a gifted artist.  While the viewer can clearly recognize Parker's self destructive behavior, her contemporaries chose simply to be amused.  And, she gladly chose the role of the wit over the alternative of facing her pain.  Even after several suicide attempts, she maintained her bittersweet role of the entertainer, relying on ever increasing doses of alcohol.
 
One of her poems, Interior, best communicates her inner disharmony, "Her mind lives tidily apart/From cold and noise and pain/And bolts the door against her heart/Out wailing in the rain."

 
Frank
Chris
Linda
Avg.
Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle
 
 
B+
B+

 
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