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Personal Velocity: Three Portraits

Three separate stories about three very different New York area women who are confronting crises brought on by the men in their lives.


Three stories involving three quite different contemporary women facing circumstances that are radically changing their lives unfold sequentially. In the first story, Delia (Kyra Sedgwick), a tough, promiscuous, working-class mom, dumps abusive husband Kurt (David Warshofsky) and leaves their trailer with her kids for shelter at the home of Fay (Mara Hobel), a former classmate whom she once saved from humiliation but hasn't seen for years. Delia begins her new life by taking on a waitress job at the local restaurant, where she proceeds to give an aggressively flirtatious young customer a humiliating lesson in female power. Another sequence tells the story of Greta (Parker Posey), an ambitious publishing drone who gets her big break when she brilliantly edits the manuscript of hot, young writer of the moment Thavi (Joel de la Fuente). Greta's vulnerability is brought to the fore when she realizes she's attracted to him, even though she has a sweet husband. Her emotions are further stirred by her background--her father is a demanding and oft-married liberal Jewish lawyer--and by her awareness that changes in life are inevitable. Paula (Fairuza Balk) is a punky, aimless young woman who deserts Vincent (Seth Gilliam), her live-in lover who rescued her from a park bench many months earlier, and takes off in her car to visit her mom. On the way she picks up runaway Kevin (Lou Taylor Pucci), who arouses her maternal instincts, especially after Paula discovers that he's a victim of physical abuse. But Kevin is not everything he seems to be, nor is Paula.


Perhaps the best reason to see Personal Velocity is to catch the terrific performances of Kyra Sedgwick, indie queen Parker Posey and the always delightfully quirky Fairuza Balk. Sedgwick is uncannily convincing as the trashy but decent Delia; Posey, whose previous roles have sometimes veered close to caricature, does a fine job here subtly portraying Manhattan publishing princess Greta, and Balk effortlessly finds and humanizes her lost soul character.


Above all, writer/director Rebecca Miller (1995's Angela) displays remarkable confidence in her sophomore turn as filmmaker. Miller wisely knows how to dwell on a moment, a face, a gesture, so that the full emotional value is mined. Working with Ellen Kuras, a fine cinematographer who here shows her finesse with video, Miller delivers a visual canvas perfectly suited to her characters and their dilemmas but, even more importantly, orchestrates her actors' outstanding performances.

Bottom Line

Demonstrating that capturing a film on digital video can make for a compelling experience, writer/director Rebecca Miller, daughter of celebrated playwright Arthur Miller and wife of Daniel Day-Lewis, skillfully delivers three separate contemporary tales from her short story collection. Each sequence is blessed by terrific performances from the three female leads. The stories never overlap, except when a horrid hit-and-run accident in Manhattan touches on all their lives. Personal Velocity doesn't really triumph as satisfying entertainment so much as it demonstrates Miller's command of the dramatic genre, digital video's narrative powers, and her actors' tremendous ability to seemingly effortlessly bring alive their characters.