“Faces” by John Cassavetes is one of those movies where characters are intended to resemble regular people going through a lot of emotions, mainly driven by their own personal misery, and in the process lashing out at everybody else because being me-me-me people it must be everybody else’s fault that their lives stink.
I know this type of movie and I know a lot of those will appear on the List through the next decades. The typical Danish movie drama will be using this approach, which explains why critics love them and the audience not so much.
As you may have deduced from my introduction I am not infatuated with this style. Frankly, it tends to annoy me. The emotional roller coaster feels too exaggerated and “Faces” is certainly no exception. Of course, there are people who wears their emotions on their sleeves, but the whole reality element is lost on me when people lose their cool like this and the characters lose their appeal. I do not want to involve myself with these people. The argument is then that you need these emotions to create drama, without them it would be dull. Well, perhaps, but then maybe these movies are just not for me.
Anyway, in “Faces” we meet two middle aged men, Richard Forst (John Marley) and Freddie (Fred Draper) and a somewhat (but not that much) younger woman, Jeannie (Gena Rowlands). They are drunk together and are having an after-party in Jeannie’s apartment. They are having some rowdy fun which is about to get more intimate when Freddie asks how much she is charging, insinuating she is a prostitute (which she may be). This breaks up the party. Richard heads home and meets his wife Maria Forst (Lynn Carlin). They laugh, argue, joke and Richard demands a divorce.
Richard leaves and returns to Jeannie to hang out. She has new company in the form of another middle-aged businessman and his younger associate. This becomes… weird. Meanwhile Maria spends the evening in town with her friends and they end up back in her apartment together with a young man they have picked up. Their party disintegrates and Maria and Chet (Seymour Cassel), the young man, end up together. Maria tries to kill herself with pills and Chet just manages to revive her before Richard returns home.
What a mess.
What most of the characters have in common is that they are solely focused on their own needs. Desperately focused. It is as if everybody else only has value to the extend they are able to meet those needs. Not just the Forsts, but all of them. Except Jeannie and Chet, who seem the only people actually caring for somebody else than themselves. Consequently, they are the only ones I actually liked here. Their social status is inferior and so I could suspect that this makes them dependent on the others and so their motives are not altogether altruistic, but merely necessity.
I suppose the intention is to give us a glimpse into real life drama, but I think they over-do it and to me it gets artificial and annoying. These people need to take it easy. Consequently, I am not as excited about “Faces” as it appears many critics have been. I prefer a lot less screaming and shouting, a lot less dramatic gestures and a host of characters who think a bit beyond their noses.
Still it was great to see Gena Rowland in an early role.