Eric D. Snider

Personal Velocity

Rebecca Miller is the daughter of playwright Arthur Miller, and she inherited some of her dad's gift for narrative. She can turn a phrase and evoke an image like nobody's business -- in her writing. When it comes to adapting her own book and directing her own movie, which she did with "Personal Velocity," she falters. The best part of the film, in fact, is the parts read by an unseen narrator -- words directly from the narration of the book.

The title comes from this statement, made in the film: "Everyone has their own personal velocity." We all know what we need to do to get our lives together, but we all move at a different pace when it comes to doing it. "Personal Velocity" is a triptych of three women's stories, each of them attempting to break free of unhealthy patterns in their lives, patterns set by various males.

First is Delia (Kyra Sedgwick), who leaves her abusive husband. Next is Greta (Parker Posey), an insanely ambitious career woman whose husband is great but unnecessary. Finally is Paula (Fairuza Balk), a rebellious youth who ran away from home and, having barely escaped death in a freak car accident, now sees a chance for a better attitude.

The acting from all three actresses in these unrelated stories is extremely good. The middle one is the lightest of the three, which might make it most enjoyable; however, Fairuza Balk's work in the concluding segment is riveting enough to make it the most memorable.

Miller used digital video instead of film, which gives it a sense of realism. Still, it doesn't add up to much. I haven't read the book, but I suspect some of the themes play out better on the page than on the screen. The narrator can only tell us so much; the rest is up to the actresses, who perform with great conviction but who can't breathe much life into a screenplay that obfuscates some of its ideas while battering others into the ground.

Grade: C+

Rated R, some fairly strong sexuality, some domestic violence, some nudity

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