There’s a great montage during the first half of A Woman, A Part.
An actress named Anna (Maggie Siff) wanders around her home, reading scripts for tv shows and movies. In between shots of her snorting cocaine, we listen as she reads dialogue aloud. One of the scripts features her as a dying mother who, with her last words, asks her children to look after their father. Another script is obviously from a Lifetime film and again, the role that Maggie reads is for a mother. In another script, she’s a love interest. And, in another, she’s just a bitchy authority figure. As becomes obvious from the dialogue, none of the scripts offer her the chance to play a leading or even a fully developed character. In each script, she’s either a plot device or a part of the scenery. She reads a script, she does a line. As she finishes each script, she tosses it into her pool until soon, the water is full of shallow characters and clichéd dialogue. Soon, Anna is floating in the pool, surrounded by the debris of her career.
Anna moved to Los Angeles from New York. In New York, she was all about theater and seeking truth through acting. In Los Angeles, she has a role on a sitcom and a certain amount of fame. People stare at her in restaurants. Some ask for autographs. Anna is exhausted, frustrated, and very aware that Hollywood has little to offer an actress in her 40s.
Anna escapes Los Angeles, heading back to New York. She hopes to reunite with her former friends but, when she arrives, she discovers that some have moved on and some have not. Her former acting partner, Kate (Cara Seymour), no longer considers herself to be an actress and resents Anna for having left their show to go to Los Angeles. Playwright Isaac (John Ortiz) has written a play, one that centers around a flawed character who Anna immediately recognizes as being based on herself.
A Woman, A Part is the first full-length feature film to be directed by the video artist, Elisabeth Subrin. It’s a flawed but promising debut. For every moment that runs the risk of falling into cliché, there’s a sequence like that pool scene or the scenes where Kate and Anna deal with their fractured friendship. It’s in those scenes between Maggie Siff and Cara Seymour that the film really comes alive. When a fan approaches Anna while she’s talking to Kate and Anna responds by saying that everyone should be asking for Kate’s autograph, Kate rightly calls Anna out for her condescending attempt at kindness. At the same time, the film is also honest enough in its characterizations to admit that much of Kate’s reaction is due to her own resentment that Anna found the success that Kate didn’t. This is a film that realizes that friendships are often the most complex of relationships. Maggie Siff and Cara Seymour both give honest and poignant performances.
As I said, A Woman, A Part is not without its flaws. To be honest, the character of Isaac never interested me as much as Anna and Kate. There are a few scenes which are just a little bit too on the nose. It’s not a perfect film but it is a promising one and I look forward to seeing what Elisabeth Subrin does next.