It's little wonder that big-time actors would sign on to be a part of this film, which is structured as nine discreet story lines focusing on the lives of ordinary women. Each short episode offers ample room to display acting craft—if we are to define craft as crying, yelling, trembling, thrashing about, and going from calm to fucking nuts and back again without cause. These aren't women, they're shrill versions of women as seen by men. The pathos is ratcheted up to the sky, such as when Lorna (Brenneman) feels unwelcome at the funeral of her ex-husband's recent wife, who committed suicide. Before long, the ex-husband, who, like the dead wife, is deaf, pulls Lorna into a private room and confesses, in sign language, that he still masturbates to thoughts of her. That old plot again?
As if you were watching someone pitch a fit in a foreign language, your emotions are vaguely stirred by the film, but from a curious distance. Many of the problems are structural—it's hard to create resonant characters in 10 to 14 minutes. But Garcia goes overboard with suggested back story. These characters can barely speak without crumbling from the weight of it all.
Something magical does occur, however, between Glenn Close and Dakota Fanning in the ninth tale, which concerns an afternoon mother-daughter trip to the cemetery. This vignette is so tasteful, measured and moving you'll be tempted to forgive the overwrought melodramas that precede it.—Alison Rosen