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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:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Bad "Bad Acting": Pinky, simulating how her back and legs hurt.
  • Birds of a Feather: Pinky and Millie, although it takes some time to notice. Both of them are Texans, and both are baptized "Mildred" and have 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 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.
  • 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.