3 Women (Film) Review

Abba took a very different artistic turn when the men left

Welcome to Blog Free or Die Hard, where no film choice is wrong. Except maybe this one, which I take full and guilty responsibility for.

When the best you can say about a film is that it’s ‘atmospheric’, you know you’ve got problems, son. I had to watch multiple episodes of Chewing Gum straight after this 2 HOUR SNOOZEFEST just to erase my own memory for a while.

Sadly, it has proven short-term as it’s all still right here. Handy for a film review, annoying for the rest of life. Still, since Jill and I in the business of ripping the shit out of movies, this one should be a peach.

Shall we?

There are *spoilers* here so be careful, though trust me, it won’t make a difference.

3 Women (1977)

Director: Robert Altman
Stars: Sissy Spacek, Shelley Duvall, Janice Rule

IMDB Synopsis: Pinky is an awkward adolescent who starts work at a spa in the California desert. She becomes overly attached to fellow spa attendant, Millie when she becomes Millie’s room-mate.

My Review:

We open on a swimming pool full of golden oldies being lead around by seventies nymphs in uniform grey swimming costumes. All this is set to one of the most jarring soundtracks I’ve ever heard (it also feels like trigger music, see: Zoolander’s Relax). The effect is ominous AF and I guess that’s exactly the point.

I don’t know if it’s Spacek’s presence or the truth but this scene, with its frenetic use of the music and slightly hazy, languishing shots, are reminiscent of Carrie (1976).

Just happy no-one's telling her to 'plug it up'
Just happy no-one’s telling her to ‘plug it up’

Spacek is all wide-eyed waif of course but less Carrie than in Carrie. As Pinky, she’s a ball of childlike energy. New to town (from Texas), new to the job with seemingly no friends or family, Pinky is vulnerable but I didn’t really feel that sorry for her, given that she’s so freaking annoying.

She sets her sights (for some reason) on the elegant Millie, who has a face like a bulldog chewing a wasp at all times. She’s cold man, and sometimes another ‘c’ word, which I won’t use in this review (but only because my mum might read it).

The other girls at the retirement centre where they all work are quite fun. Super bitchy and indifferent to everything around them, but fun. They just aren’t that into Millie, if truth be told.

How they laughed (which is weird as I don't remember Millie smiling once)
How they laughed (which is weird as I don’t remember Millie smiling once)

Pinky and Millie build a precarious  friendship, which is mostly one-sided. When Millie needs a roommate, Pinky jumps at the opportunity. Millie is appalled at the uncouth way in which Pinky behaves, though she doesn’t drink, smoke or seem to have any sexual experience, while Millie is all about men.

Always good to take a roommate who disgusts you, I feel.

Shit just got real weird
Shit just got real weird

The new roomies spend time at a desert bar called Dodge City where we meet, presumably, the third woman – Willie Hart. Willie is mostly mute, a bit trippy and heavily pregnant. She is married to Edgar (a former stuntman and don’t we bloody know it). She also paints bizarre murals that appear throughout the film, one of which depicts 3 women.


Anyway, this film takes over 2 HOURS to do what a nice 90 minute film could of done. In short hand, Millie is as unpopular as Pinky but either has the hide of a rhinoceros or just can’t read basic social signals, because she just isn’t taking a hint.

This aesthetic, all day, erryday

Pinky is unpopular because she’s weird but desperation rises like steam from Millie, who seems to have ideas above her station, trying to entice friends to dinner parties (when she serves pigs in blankets, count me in).

One night she gets stood up by her so-called friends and goes to Dodge City, alone. She returns, drunk, in the early hours with Edgar and they ain’t planning to talk about his former ‘acting’ career, if you know what I mean.

Pinky looks shocked (more likely nauseous) and Millie goes off on one about being judged, telling Pinky that nobody likes her because she doesn’t drink or smoke. She then tells her to move out.

Pinky takes it well by throwing herself into the apartment block’s pool, knocking herself unconscious. In the furore, Willie saves her (man, this woman has a full-time job running a bar, paints all the time and is also 9 months pregnant, a little help here!). She also witnesses Edgar leaving Millie’s, the dirty fucker. She judges him hard with her eyes.

Also, I hadn’t realised that they all lived in the same block until this moment.

Millie finally does something sort of kind, and runs around dealing with Pinky’s business, rounding up her parents (who live in Texas) and puts them up while her friend is in a coma. When Pinky wakes however she claims she’s never seen these old people in her life and screams for them to fuck off.

This part is never explained as far as I know, nor resolved. They simply go home to Texas and aren’t heard from again. Pinky recovers quickly and has suddenly become a drinker, smoker and all-round sex bomb. She also learns. to. shoot!

“When you absolutely, positively got to kill every motherfucker in the room, accept no substitutes.”

She starts wearing make-up (the markings of a sexual woman) and plays games with Millie, who’s desperate for what? Redemption, I guess. This change in their roles is interesting… for about 10 seconds. Sadly, it’s not really seen through.

There’s a bit of a sideline when we find out that Pinky has used Millie’s Social Security number for some reason and Millie, sticking up for her friend, quits her job over it. Pinky then starts screwing Edgar and… I’m leaving this here because I have spend way too much time on this dreadful film already.

There’s a flipping bizarre and awkward climax – and then… well, I don’t really get it, I won’t lie.


What the fuck is the point? is my overall feeling. Why is it so slow? is another. Howevs, to do this properly, some real questions:

Will Pinky and Millie make it together as friends? Will their roles revert back? Will you care by the end of the second hour?

Who in their right mind would go anywhere near Edgar? And what of his beautiful preggo wife, and their wee baby?

You’ll see. If you can be arsed. If not, I can email you the ending so you don’t have to waste any of your precious time on this utter codswallop.

My Thoughts:

Don’t make me think about this anymore. It’s horrendous.

I’m surprised that Robert Altman has let me down so badly but then again, I’m sure he thought he knew what he was doing. The whole film is supposed to make you feel uneasy but there’s just not enough in it. No real danger in the end (for the women, at least), just mind games.

So much is unexplained and unless I missed it when I went to the loo, part of the climax happens off screen, which makes it feel unfinished (thinking about it, I might have missed it). I don’t get the ending at all. It’s all just very bizarre and I’m sure it’s not just because I’m a thicko.

Any positives? Hm. Well, Sissy Spacek and Shelley Duvall are both very beautiful, I enjoyed looking at them.

I was going to say that maybe they were both chosen for their work in other iconic horror movies (Carrie/The Shining (1980)) but sadly, that theory has to be thrown out the window (The Shining was made 3 years after this one). Both are 1 million times superior and both probably in my Top 25 of all time.

Can I have a nap now? 

My Rating: 1.5/5 – Don’t bother. It’s shit.

So, will Jillian still be willing to be my Blog Wife after I’ve steered us so spectacularly wrong? Or did she love it? Find out here.

“Hello? Yes, I’d like to speak to someone who gives a shit. About this film I mean…”

9 thoughts on “3 Women (Film) Review

    1. Were there penises?! I was watching in the bath and everything was decidedly steamy… which might account for the hazy opening scene come to think of it. Jebus. I still think this is better than that Julia Styles movie. I might have to go back and check. At least there are enough WTF moments to power this one through (just). I’m sorry. I’m so sorry x


    1. No, the soundtrack was SUPER bizarre, esp. when contrasted with some of the scenes…intentionally?
      There was at least ONE Aztec-y penis. And there were multiple shots of it, so I’m counting it as penises even if that may be a slight exaggeration.
      “Always good to take a roommate who disgusts you.” Ha, I related to Millie for that one second because I feel all roommates inevitably annoy me, even if they’re doing reasonably normal things.
      I was super confused about what they were going for at the end…I thought for a second there was going to be some kind of weird situation where Pinky takes over Millie’s life/identity. Like, uh, The Parent Trap? God, that comparison makes no sense.
      Looking back at my film ratings, the only conclusion I can make is that I’m incredibly inconsistent.
      I’m glad we shared this film experience, even though it made zero sense to me.
      For next time, trying to decide between a favorite film noir (Laura) and one I’ve been meaning to watch forever (House on Telegraph Hill).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ooooh they both sound good and I ain’t seen either. I can’t believe I tuned out the penises… me too, now if that film is ever mentioned/referenced (unlikely), we’ll be like, yeah cool, know it well. What the actual fuck does the ending mean though? I might write to Robert Altman x

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Ok, I just watched the trailer for House on Telegraph Hill, and I think we HAVE to do it. Looks so so so melodramatic, and I think the lead is a wannabe Ingrid Bergman. She has some kind of European accent, anyway.
        …Though I thought the same thing about The Man Who Never Was being full of drama, so we’ll see.

        Liked by 1 person

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