The Strange Possession of Mrs. Oliver

This movie’s a bit of an odd duck. Normally I would lump a movie like this in with a bunch of other short reviews, attempt to be witty, and leave it at that.

However, there’s something interesting about this film even if I can’t really put my finger on what it is. There’s something about the thematic material, or the acting, or something, that makes me want to sit down and give it a much more solid re-watch.

To give this film its due, it was written for television by Richard Matheson. At the very least the script is quite solid. However, I think that the first level of strangeness comes from the script-though I can’t quite tell if the weirdness comes from the script itself or how the cast handles it.

This is one of the bluntest ‘feminist’ pieces I’ve seen in a long time. I’m not sure if it’s related to the era it was released in, the fact it’s a made-for-tv film, or what it is that lends to this effect but my fast review on Facebook amounted to if the themes were any blunter, Karen Black’s character would be bludgeoning her husband to death with a copy of the Feminine Mystique. Overly excited outbursts about wanting to control her own body and wanting her husband to stop ‘smothering’ her lead to the sensation that only is this a new personality type-she’s been rolling herself in Second Wave politics.

I do think that the film has two major weaknesses-George Hamilton playing as the husband in this film can’t really handle his part. He alternates between seeming bored and bewildered, so instead of the impression of an overbearing, misogynistic man you are left wondering why his wife hasn’t rebelled earlier. Second, I’m not sure how the directors felt about Black’s sudden personality shift. I liked the general set-up, I can even handle the goofy handling of 1970s gender politics, but I’m not sure the directorial team did.

The overall effect these factors give the piece is a weird muddled feeling that is appealing in its own right but I’m not sure if it’s what the movie is supposed to be.

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