Personal Velocity

A triptych of short stories compromise Personal Velocity, the new film by Rebecca Miller (Angela) based on her novel. Each story is about a woman undergoing some sort of change in her life, usually leading to some sort of epiphany. Although it is somewhat short on substance, the three leading actors give powerful portrayals that more than redeem any potential deficiencies in the story or production. Personal Velocity was shot on digital, but this was probably a good decision on Miller's part, since it affects an air of immediacy. What doesn't work is the narration by John Ventimiglia (Plan B, Series 7: The Contenders), which is annoying but necessary. Ventimiglia narrates the obvious, giving much background information to present a better picture of each woman because each story is essentially a short film. At times, the narration feels a little too pedantic and forced, as if Miller is using the narrator to move the story forward instead of the actors.

The first story focuses on Delia (Kyra Sedgwick, Just A Kiss, What's Cooking?), freshly kicked out of her marriage to an abusive husband. She totes her kids and seeks shelter with an old acquaintance, all the while trying to restart her life. As a teenager, she used her sexuality to win her way with men, and soon found herself married with children. Now, she finds herself at a point in life where superficial things didn't matter. She's taking a good look at her life, and realizes that there isn't much to it. Greta (Parker Posey, The Sweetest Thing, The Anniversary Party) is also married. She coasts along in life, editing cookbooks, until an author requests her to edit his novel. It is a hit, and she becomes relatively famous. Now, she realizes she wants more in life. She begins looking elsewhere for comfort and soon realizes she and her husband are no longer close.

The final and shortest story centers on Paula (Fairuza Balk, Deuce's Wild, Almost Famous), fresh from a traumatic experience. She picks up a hitchhiker for the first time and decides to make the trip back to the home she ran away from years ago. Each story by itself does not contain enough to present a full portrait of each woman. Instead, Miller wanted to present the stories together to show how their situations relate to each other. While it may be a thin premise, Posey, Balk, and Sedgwick's (in that order) are strong. Posey in particular channels a mixture of emotions, quickly switching back and forth from elation, guilt, resignation, and boredom. Personal Velocity is the kind of movie that aspires to be more than it actually is, but watching the actors ply their trade is worth sitting through this near-pretentious material.

Mongoose Rates It: Not Bad.
1 hour, 26 minutes, Rated R for brief violence, some strong sexuality, and language.

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