Winger must have studied women like Martha in preparing for her performance. She must have lived beside them, observing a hundred different details.
She puts them all together into a portrayal that never seems made up of those details, however; everything is of a piece, and after a time we are simply watching Martha, identifying with her. Look at the way Martha studies the movements in the faces of people she's talking to. She all but peers at them, looking for clues, trying to read emotions and meanings.
Look at the way she walks, filled with purpose, concerned with getting from here to there without false effort. Look at the way she stiffens when she is treated unfairly. Look at how proudly she insists that she always tells the truth. The women live in a small town where everybody knows each other, more or less.
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Frances is a bit player in local politics, and it gradually becomes clear that she's the victim of a series of affairs, that she tries to find herself through the assistance of men, and usually fails. As for Martha, she hardly seems aware there is such a thing as a sex life. Then one day an alcoholic handyman named Mackey Gabriel Byrne comes drifting into their lives, looking for work.
It so happens that Frances' frame porch has been caved in by an automobile driven by a jealous wife who thought, correctly, that her husband was inside the house. Frances sends the handyman away, but Mackey comes back anyway, and starts the job; he needs the work so badly he has no choice. Eventually Mackey will become involved with both women. But it is not as simple as it might sound, because he isn't bad - none of these people are bad - and in the loneliness and desperation of these lives many things can happen.
His moral carelessness is fueled by alcoholism, which he acknowledges, although the movie in general doesn't take it very seriously. Mackey's involvement sets a plot into motion, a plot that eventually involves another local man, Getso David Strathairn a worthless petty thief at the dry cleaners.
A Dangerous Woman () - IMDb
A glorified Lifetime television movie directed by daddy Gyllenhaal. Debra Winger gives a fine performance as a mentally challenged woman eking out an existence living in Barbara Hershey's guest apartment and working at the local dry cleaners. Standing in her way, or course, is every stereotype imaginable, as each female character in A Dangerous Woman is either indecisive, naive or crazy, and each male character is either a knight in shining armor or a greedy chauvinistic asshole. Nothing rings true, and that is only compounded by the fact that I really wanted it to, so Winger's performance wouldn't be left out to dry.
By the time the ending rolls around and the utterly offensive meaning of the title rears its ugly head, luckily you'll have long since stopped caring about the characters.
A Dangerous Woman
Do not name your movie A Dangerous Woman if there are no dangerous women in it because I will watch it and then I will get upset at the lack of dangerous women and give your movie a poor rating on Letterboxd. This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth. This was alright. The mostly leisurely pace established by director Stephen Gyllenhaal is the tradeoff for the accumulation of character detail, but the lurches into outright melodrama feel jarring in this context, particularly in the final reel. Hershey similarly remains one-dimensional. After any number of sexy outings in her career, it is fascinating to see her take on this awkward, sexually innocent character.
Her graceless, insecure movements are right on target. But there is an element of the stunt to the performance that can also prompt a detached, if admiring, amusement.
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His slow and underplayed expiration after Winger attacks him stands out as the most striking sequence in the film and one of the most distinctive death scenes in memory. Produced by Naomi Foner. Executive producer, Kathleen Kennedy. Line producer, Patricia Whitcher.
Directed by Stephen Gyllenhaal. Reviewed at the Northstar screening room, L.