(Originally published in Rocky Mountain Bullhorn)
Robert Altman’s Ingmar Bergman-esque psychodrama 3 Women charts immature Texas waif Pinky’s (Sissy Spacek) move to an arid California town, where she begins working at a nursing home spa and obsessively latches onto co-worker Millie (Shelley Duvall), a walking, talking McCalls who blathers on about pigs-in-a-blanket recipes and her favorite colors. Altman’s preoccupation with American tableaux reveals apocalyptic levels of banality in the California rental community in which Millie, Pinky, and a third woman (Janice Rule) reside, and his elliptical film chillingly details Pinky’s sycophantic fascination with Millie. The mystifying Jungian-influenced conclusion is amplified by Altman’s languid, hallucinatory visuals – inspired, legendarily, by a dream – and Bodhi Wind’s disturbingly serpentine murals. This third act descent into madness is layered with pretentious ‘70s artiness, but 3 Women’s minor shortcomings ultimately aren’t enough to derail the film’s early, incisive portrait of psychological alienation and the desperate, pathetic ways people voraciously cling to their obscure – and unworthy – objects of desire.