Well, that was absolutely nothing like what I expected. Here’s what I expected: a complex and realistic character study of three women with a complicated friendship. Like, I dunno, Interiors crossed with Frances Ha. Here’s what the film is: a fever dream of shifting and merging identities, sometimes violently, always awkwardly, and often disturbingly. I was fascinated.
Apparently the idea for the film came to Altman in a dream, which I totally believe, because this is very unlike any of the other Altman films I’ve seen. Sissy Spacek is a shy, wet-behind-the-ears young girl who gets a job at a spa and quickly idolizes a confident and chatty Shelley Duvall who shows her the ropes. But Duvall’s confidence is somewhat misplaced, as becomes painfully obvious when she has lunch over at the doctor’s building and thinks she’s flirting wildly with everyone when they’re really ignoring her completely. Spacek is enthralled, though, follows Duvall everywhere, and quickly manages to become her roommate. Then they meet the third woman, a nearly silent Janice Rule, the very pregnant wife of Duvall’s landlord who spends all her time painting bizarre primitive art on every concrete surface she can find.