Film / 3 Women

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3 Women is a 1977 drama film written and directed by Robert Altman, starring Shelley Duvall, Sissy Spacek, and Janice Rule.

The film explores the increasingly bizarre, mysterious relationship between a woman (Duvall) and her teenage roommate (Spacek) in a dusty, underpopulated California town.


This film provides examples of:

  • Arc Symbol: Water. Many times during the movie, the viewpoint is seen through water (a fish tank, for instance), giving a sense that things happen under water. Three swimming pools (two full, one empty) also play along here - with Willie´s paintings visible in two of them. Being "under water" is often a symbol of the subconscious, tying into the "dream" interpretation at the end of the movie. There is also the pool in the spa, where Pinky goes completely under water in an early scene. Possibly one swimming pool per woman in the movie.
  • All Just a Dream: One of the theories, supported by Willie's last line: "I just had the most wonderful dream." — Or Was It a Dream?
  • Ambiguous Ending: According to Word Of God the ending is meant to be ambiguous and open to interpretation. However, Altman's personal opinion was that Edgar was buried under the pile of spare tires shown in the final shot of the film.
  • And You Were There: Going with the All Just a Dream interpretation, Willie cast her daughter and granddaughter as different characters in her dream.
  • Bad "Bad Acting": Pinky, simulating how her back and legs hurt.
  • Bare Your Midriff: Pinky in her "rebellious teenager" phase. Most prominently during the gun training sequence.
  • Birds of a Feather: Pinky and Millie. Although it takes some time to notice. Both of them are texans, both of them are bapitzed "Mildred" and has changed it in different ways. It is also implied that Millie, in spite of her wordly appearance, is more lonely than she seems to be at first.
  • Bungled Suicide: In a kneejerk reaction, after been given a "The Reason You Suck" Speech by Millie, Pinky attempts suicide by jumping off from a banister into the pool. Willie finds her floating unconsciously in the pool and alarms neighbors who rescue her.
  • City Mouse: Millie.
  • City with No Name: We never learn the name of the desert city. Apparently, the film was shot as Desert Hot Springs and Palm Springs, California.
  • Coordinated Clothes: The twins always wear the same dress.
  • Country Mouse: Pinky.
  • Creepy Twins: There was a reason why nobody liked them.
  • Gainax Ending: The last scene poses more questions than it answers. One theory is that the three women finally settle into a new family unit that seems to give each woman what she was searching for.
  • Gender-Blender Name: Willie.
  • The Hecate Sisters: More and more prominent and played utterly straight at the end of the film. Willie is the crone, having taken up the role of grandmother. Millie is the mother, a trait she grows into gradually over the last part of the film, and Pinky is, of course, the maiden.
  • Hourglass Plot: Pinky and Millie suddenly switch power positions (or even personalities) two third into the movie.
  • Light Feminine and Dark Feminine: Innocent redhead Pinky and experienced brunette Millie.
  • Loss of Identity: The lines of identity get very blurry.
  • Mind Screw
  • Running Gag: Millie's skirt getting stuck in the car door.
  • Personality Swap: Pinky and Millie switching personalities.
  • Screaming Birth: There's a very intense birth giving scene at the end of the movie. It turns out to be a stillbirth.
  • Secret Diary: Millie has one, protected by lock and key. Pinky later manages to get a good look inside.
  • A Threesome Is Hot: At one point Edgar entertains the idea of having sex with both Millie and Pinky.
  • Two-Act Structure: There is a sudden Hourglass Plot switch two third into the movie, after Pinky's Bungled Suicide.
  • The Unsolved Mystery: What really happened to Edgar? It is implied that Reckless Gun Usage was the official cause of death. But another reason can be assumed.


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