[box cover]

Personal Velocity

Since it's typically either a cop-out storytelling method (Indecent Proposal) or a way to shoe-horn emotion into an unemotional story (Terminator 2), hearing a voice-over when you go to the movies usually isn't a good sign. One wonderful exception to the rule is the concise, detailed narration of writer/director Rebecca Miller's Personal Velocity. In beautifully structured sentences lifted from the short stories (also written by Miller, daughter of famed playwright and Marilyn Monroe ex Arthur Miller) the film is based on, narrator John Ventimiglia fleshes out Personal Velocity's trio of heroines quickly and elegantly, offering relevant information from their back-stories without detracting from their time on screen. A quick break for more info reveals abused wife Delia's (Kyra Sedgwick) troubled, promiscuous past, for example; later, similar pauses catch the viewer up on ambitious New Yorker Greta (Parker Posey) and panicked, warm-hearted Paula (Fairuza Balk). The three women never interact directly, yet their stories are linked by the fact that each is at a turning point in her life: Delia finally saves herself and her three children from the quick temper and hurtful hands of her husband (David Warshofsky), only to face the daunting task of getting on with her life; Greta turns a corner professionally and gradually realizes that her success has distanced her from her own adoring spouse (Tim Guinee); and Paula, in an effort to make up for a life lost, tries to rescue a wounded kid — and finds out that her "atonement" is going to take a different form entirely. Thanks to Miller's writing and the actresses' excellent, emotionally charged performances, Delia, Greta, and Paula are compelling and sympathetic; although each woman has only about half an hour of screen time, all three are more fully realized characters than any woman in a typical two-hour Hollywood blockbuster. Personal Velocity may unfairly be written off by some as a "chick flick"; classing this powerful, intimate portrait of three fascinating women with the likes of Sweet Home Alabama and Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood would be like saying The Hours was about some ladies who kissed each other. Hopefully Personal Velocity will find its way to a larger audience now that it's out on DVD. MGM's disc offeres both anamorphic (1.85:1) and full-screen transfers — the mini-DV cinematography holds up well, and the English 5.1 Surround audio is clear and strong (all the better to hear Michael Rohatyn's wistful score). English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese subtitles are available. The list of special features includes the trailer, an unusually subtle "making-of" featurette without any of the typical talking-head interviews, a 30-minute "In Conversation" featurette that captures a chat session between Miller and her leading ladies, and two commentary tracks. The first, by Miller, is quiet and sporadic; she almost seems to want to avoid interrupting the movie. Cinematographer Ellen Kuras and gaffer John Nadeau team up for the second — their track is much chattier and quite technical. Keep-case.
—Betsy Bozdech

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