After an early rehearsal performance, an emotionally unstable fan waits backstage to meet actress Myrtle Gordon (Gena Rowlands). The fan looks like something from a horror movie through the rain soaked glass, and her encounter with Myrtle will unleash all of the star's anxieties, insecurities and emotional insanity. Cassavetes once again places his spouse under the influence, this time swinging for the fences. He injects supernatural moments. The fan haunts Myrtle, sometimes seeming to take a material form. Is Myrtle under attack from an evil spirit or is she doing this to herself? Rowland's performance appears to hit close to home, with Cassavetes taking the part of a less famous co-star.
Rowlands rises to the challenge, but the results are more than a bit uncertain. That's a typical side effect to Cassavetes indulgent technique, but what you end up with is a film with great potential that only fulfills greatness a few times. One such moment is when Rowlands breaks the 4th wall at the end of one performance and puts a meta spin on the whole evening. Like “I’m walking here” in Midnight Cowboy, her emotional outburst works for the character and gives the show an interesting artistic flourish.
I really liked the supernatural moments. Cassavetes isn't great at horror payoffs, but he can bring the creepy and build it up pretty strong. However, the entire last act stretches credibility pretty far by putting more onto Rowlands than any human could possibly stand up to. It also presents the Cassavetes version of a Broadway play, which weirdly reminded me of a similar turn at the end of Staying Alive. I dunno. I think audiences watching such indulgent improvisation in a live setting probably wouldn't be reacting the way they are here.RATING: * * 1/2