Movie Reviews - Featured Films » Independent Film Guide - M

Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle Movie Review

leigh benchley rudolph scott

Dorothy Parker (1893–1967) left behind a few recordings of her voice, which Jennifer Jason Leigh listened to over and over again, trying to get every inflection just right. Audiences either loved or hated Leigh's voice as Parker; it was the centerpiece of her interpretation. Let's see—if Parker only made a few recordings, she could not have been very comfortable making them, and her personality might well have been…lost in the process? Uhm… maybe, but she WAS nominated for a Grammy in 1961 for the World of Dorothy Parker album she recorded for the Verve label. Voice aside, Leigh plays Parker as a chronically unhappy woman, obsessed with Robert Benchley (1889–1945) when her real-life obsession appears to have been with her husband and Star Is Born collaborator Alan Campbell (they were both nominated for Oscars for their screenplay and Parker was a nominee again in 1947 for Smash Up). It's unlikely that if the real Parker had been half as miserable as Leigh's Parker, she would have been drinking lunch with the guys everyday at the Algonquin Round Table. Then and now, guys may prefer lunch with wine, but seldom with a whiner. Campbell Scott was much praised for his performance as Benchley, and he would be bloody marvelous if he were playing anyone BUT Benchley. As anyone who is addicted to Benchley's short films knows, no one could look at Benchley without smiling, and no one could read his books or listen to him at the movies without laughing (check out 1928's original Sex Life of a Polyp! OR How to Sleep, a 1935 Oscar winner!). Scott plays Benchley as sensitive, concerned, lean, and humorless. In trying to include every one of the Algonquin wits, Rudolph does justice to no one, really. Everyone passes into the frame for a second before s/he's gone. And there's still identity fudging. Some of the female characters are composites, probably for legal reasons. At least Rudolph waited until Helen Hayes (1900–93) died before painting her husband Charles MacArthur (1895–1963) as a faithless jerk. As a fiction flick, this one ain't half bad, but I'd rather watch Sally Kellerman and John Lithgow in Parker's The Big Blonde or Robert Benchley delivering his own dialogue in Hitchcock's Foreign Correspondent. AKA: Mrs. Parker and the Round Table.

1994 (R) 124m/C Jennifer Jason Leigh, Matthew Broderick, Andrew McCarthy, Campbell Scott, Jennifer Beals, Tom McGowan, Nick Cassavetes, Sam Robards, Rebecca Miller, Wallace Shawn, Martha Plimpton, Gwyneth Paltrow, Peter Gallagher, Lili Taylor; D: Alan Rudolph; W: Rudolph Coburn, Randy Sue Coburn; C: Jan Kiesser; M: Mark Isham. National Society of Film Critics Awards ‘94: Best Actress (Leigh); Nominations: Golden Globe Awards ‘95: Best Actress—Drama (Leigh); Independent Spirit Awards ‘95: Best Actor (Scott), Best Actress (Leigh), Best Director (Rudolph), Best Film, Best Screenplay. VHS, LV, Closed Caption

Mr. North Movie Review [next] [back] Mrs. Brown Movie Review

User Comments

Your email address will be altered so spam harvesting bots can't read it easily.
Hide my email completely instead?

Cancel or