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  Minnie and Moskowitz Tough LoveBuy this film here.
Year: 1971
Director: John Cassavetes
Stars: Gena Rowlands, Seymour Cassel, Val Avery, Timothy Carey, Katherine Cassavetes, Elizabeth Deering, Elsie Ames, Lady Rowlands, Holly Near, Judith Roberts, Jack Danskin, Eleanor Zee, John Cassavetes
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Seymour Moskowitz (Seymour Cassel) works in New York City as a car park attendant, but is unsatisfied with his life, never more so than tonight when he finishes work for the evening. After seeing one of his favourite movies at a cinema - he's a big Humphrey Bogart fan - he alights in a diner for a bite to eat and gets to talking to one of the other customers (Timothy Carey) who rambles on at him about this and that as the waitress tries to persuade him to move on so she can get the table back. But before the night is out, Seymour will have been beaten up and decided to leave this city...

After pioneering independent film with his first few directorial efforts, John Cassavetes opted to try something other than intense drama with characters talking endless to one another and plumped for an intense comedy with characters talking endlessly to one another instead. That style of his, the naturalism he was so dedicated to pursuing that it couldn't help but look deeply affected, was not a perfect fit to a romantic comedy, but it was an interesting experiment nonetheless as Moskowitz borrows money from his mother (actually Cassavetes' mother) and heads out East.

Meanwhile in Los Angeles there is Minnie (Gena Rowlands, a regular in Cassavetes' work thanks to both being married to him and knowing precisely what was required of her in these particular efforts), and she is a museum curator who has nothing but bad luck with men. Indeed, every male she so much as starts a conversation with ends up yelling at her or pushing her around, making her a much victimised soul who understandably has given up on love, though she is still coaxed into going on dates against her better judgement. Does this mean she really needs the other half of the title in her world?

For a while, you're not so sure. Certainly although Minnie is disillusioned with romance, she puts the blame not so much on potential partners as the popular idea of love which she bought into for most of her existence, that peddled by the movies. How come, she laments to her elderly best friend Florence (Elsie Ames), they could have got it so wrong on the silver screen in comparison to her bitter experience? If you'd seen Cassavetes films previous to this one, you might be anticipating he would put her through the wringer for the rest of the story to back up her lack of faith, and for much of it this looks as if it will be the journey we're on.

Minnie meets Moskowitz, funnily enough, in a restaurant car park, where she has just been on one of her nightmare dates with rich but obviously messed up businessman Val Avery who rants at her over the table until she walks out. He follows and Seymour rescues her by beating the date up (though the date threw the first punch), then chases the hapless Minnie down the street to make sure she's all right. Or that's the idea, except in these hands it looks as if she's suffering yet more hassle from yet another man - Cassavetes himself plays an abusive husband she is having an affair with to emphasise Minnie's hard luck - as Moskowitz's idea of courting looks suspiciously like sexual harrassment. As everybody turns incredibly antagonistic at the drop of a hat here, your patience may be tested if you don't find them amusing, yet Cassavetes made Minnie's trials all worth it by pulling a sweet, affectionate ending out of the hat, thus saving not only her but your attitude towards this odd couple.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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