Editor’s Notes: Mad Women opens in limited theatrical release today, July 24th.
Though it is now widely beloved, highly esteemed and considered by many to be a classic, Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs was softly passed by the legendary duo of Siskel and Ebert. The two praised the now eclectic director for his style and talent with dialogue, but posited that Tarantino had better movies up his sleeve. Tarantino’s next film was Pulp Fiction, and we all know where the history books go from there. Although the two directors couldn’t be more different, I was reminded of Siskel and Ebert’s words about Tarantino’s debut film during Jeff Lipsky’s Mad Women.
Jeff Lipsky has a style all of his own that feels incredibly distinctive and refreshingly unorthodox.
Mad Women marks Jeff Lipsky’s fifth directorial effort, his fourth in nine years. I had no prior knowledge of the writer/director until this film, but I am eager to look into what Lipsky’s other works. Some minor research gave me the impression that Lipsky enjoys crafting intimate character dramas, and is fascinated not only by the interactions of said characters, but what happens when the taboo and controversial are introduced into their lives. Though I am not the film’s biggest fan, I am very interested in viewing Lipsky’s other works. Usually, one can easily compare an emerging talent to the works of more established directors, but Lipsky easily sidesteps such simplistic labeling. Though there are in Mad Women fleeting glimpses of Mike Nichols, Woody Allen and Lars von Trier, Jeff Lipsky has a style all of his own that feels incredibly distinctive and refreshingly unorthodox. That reason alone is reason worth looking into his other films.
Lipsky’s latest film, which is currently playing in limited theatrical release and opens in LA this weekend, takes place in the world of suburban politics. Christina Starbuck plays Jennifer, a driven, idealistic politician with lofty goals who gained a following after being imprisoned after committing a crime of conscience. Throughout the film one of her political speeches is intercut as a flashback. Though Jennifer’s ideals initially seem left- wing progressive, they quickly become radical by any standards. This is one of the more well-executed twists Lipsky throws at us, though others are not nearly as successful or even interesting.
This being a movie about politics, everyone in the family has to have issues. We are introduced to a slew of characters, some more interesting than others, some of their backstories as roles in the story as a whole easier to grasp than others. Most notable is Kelsey Lynn Stokes as Nevada, the troubled middle daughter. We are introduced to Nevada in the very first scene of the film, in which Lipsky employs one of his many monolgoues.
Speaking of Lipsky’s monologues, one gets the sense that the man is a very literal director. He enjoys writing speeches for his actors, all of which go on for minutes at a time. Some of them are fascinating and engaging, others not so much.
Speaking of Lipsky’s monologues, one gets the sense that the man is a very literal director. He enjoys writing speeches for his actors, all of which go on for minutes at a time. Some of them are fascinating and engaging, others not so much. This pattern repeats itself throughout the film, resulting in kind of a mixed bag of enjoyment. Each actor is saddled with said mixed bag when it comes to their dialogue, with the exception of Reed Birney. A Lipsky regular, Birney gets the bulk of the film’s best material as a husband who is jailed for a sex scandal and loses the job that gave him great joy.
Lipsky’s tendency to lean toward dialogue-heavy scripts is ultimately the film’s undoing. Mad Women has some riveting stuff, but it also has many moments where it could have used a trim. The film’s running length could have easily been trimmed twenty minutes and made for a tighter more effective film. I didn’t enjoy Jeff Lipsky’s latest film as much as I had hoped I would (I always hope every movie I watch is terrific), but I am excited to see what else he has done behind the camera.
Mad Women has some riveting stuff, but it also has many moments where it could have used a trim. The film’s running length could have easily been trimmed twenty minutes and made for a tighter more effective film.