Review by Michael Costello
Frank Perry’s bleak study of the lot of a beleaguered Manhattan housewife features three excellent performances. Carrie Snodgress stars as the wife of a lawyer (Richard Benjamin) whose unbearable status-anxiety drives her into the arms of an equally neurotic emotional sadist (Frank Langella). Made during the nascent days of the women’s movement, the film is a strident and simplistic take on the woman-as-victim, yet in some scenes captures the miserable details of this woman’s life with such precision and vividness, that it still has residual power. Benjamin’s overbearing lawyer is memorable as one of the most irritating characters ever to appear onscreen, and in his insane hunger for social status, he’s something of a precursor to American Psycho’s Patrick Bateman. Snodgress is so brilliantly effective in her Academy Award-nominated performance, that it becomes painful to watch what amounts to the torture of her passive, emotionally abused housewife. As a narcissistic womanizer with an amazingly well-modulated voice, Langella is also exceptional, and his subsequent 15 minutes as a sex symbol speaks volumes about how differently women saw themselves at the time. While the film’s failure to examine these characters in greater depth, and the director’s lack of vision ultimately leaves one unsatisfied, it remains a provocative work which undoubtedly still speaks to the plight of many women.