Newest Reviews:

New Movies -  

The Tunnel


The Tall Man

Mama Africa





Brownian Movement

Last Ride

[Rec]³: Genesis

Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai

Indie Game: The Movie

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Old Movies -

Touki Bouki: The Journey of the Hyena

Drums Along the Mohawk

The Chase

The Heiress

Show People

The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry



Miracle Mile

The Great Flamarion

Dark Habits

Archives -

Recap: 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 , 2005, 2006, 2007 , 2008 , 2009 , 2010 , 2011 , 2012

All reviews alphabetically

All reviews by star rating

All reviews by release year


Screening Log



E-mail me




Personal Velocity (Rebecca Miller) 2002


    It’s tough to imagine a better example of post-feminist thought gone awry than Rebecca Miller’s Personal Velocity, which at times feels like it’s espousing some kind of twisted parody of female empowerment. I suppose in some sort of alternative universe where auteur theory doesn’t exist, and the genre reigns supreme, both something insightful and beautiful like Lynne Ramsey’s Movern Callar and something muddled and unattractive like Personal Velocity could be considered “chick flicks”, but the levels of ambition, emotional clarity, and insight found in the former are all completely absent in the latter. Shot quite shoddily on digital video, Personal Velocity somehow wrangled the top dramatic prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, though that achievement surely has as much to do with weak competition as with its own strengths. There’s next to nothing to get excited to get about in this anthology film, self-described as “three portraits” of women with low self-esteem. Assumedly each of these tales is meant in some way to show liberation of its protagonist, but the messages all come out cloudy and ill formed, since the women invariably end up humiliating themselves and compromising their dignity greatly in order to push toward something that resembles a happy ending.


    The first, and by far least rewarding, short in this triptych stars Kyra Sedgwick in full-on Erin Brockovich mode (she’s all tits and attitude) as an abused wife who works up the courage to leave her man. The second, and best, tale features Parker Posey as a New York copy editor who flirts with success, among other things. The final story of the bunch stars Fairuza Balk in a story about the way that fate tends to twist itself. I suppose if you wanted to find a common thread amongst these stories, you could note that each of the women has self-esteem issues that are rooted in their relationship with their father. The cumulative effect of using that same cause for each of their crises makes the screenwriting feel uncreative instead of revelatory though. Miller’s direction doesn’t do much to build emotional momentum. A male narrator reads excerpts from the source novel (which Miller also wrote... you can’t imagine any other director leaving all of this stuff in) that simplify about the interior thoughts of the characters and confuse about their motivations instead of enlightening us, as one would expect. Most of Miller’s more idiosyncratic touches, such as the way that she incorporates montages of freeze-frames at key moments of her story or the exceptionally obvious soundtrack only further take whatever class the picture might have away. With a tighter editorial process and firmer direction this material could work, especially since the actresses in the lead roles are all more than competent, but as is, Personal Velocity seems to be idling in neutral.

* 1/2


Jeremy Heilman