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Gena Rowlands stars in John Cassavetes's drama of an aging, alcoholic stage actress in the days leading up to her latest Broadway opening. Just barely keeping herself together, she cracks after a young fan is killed while running after her limousine, continuing to see visions of the woman. Hitting the bottle even harder while her friends turn their heads and haul her off to spiritualists, she finally staggers in, barely able to stand, for her opening night performance. Like all of her collaborations with her writer-director husband, Rowlands is a woman on the verge of collapse, this time a lonely alcoholic whose very life is a performance. Overlong at 144 minutes, the film's long, loose scenes build through uncomfortable small talk and slow, tentative confrontations. Some of the scenes are edgy and thrilling, though many find this facet of Cassavetes pretentious and self-indulgent. Ultimately it's a matter of taste: if you like his style, you'll love this discomforting drama. Joan Blondell costars as the sardonic but confident playwright and longtime Cassavetes star Ben Gazarra is Rowland's smiling but pitiless manager. Cassavetes has a small role as her self-contained costar, keeping to himself until forced to deal with her onstage in a finale that is either an inspired ad-lib or the loopiest climax to a Broadway drama ever written.

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ANB10744 Opening Night VHS (1977/Gena Rowlands) $5.99