Review: ‘A Woman, a Part’ and a Quest to Reconnect


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From left, John Ortiz, Maggie Siff and Cara Seymour in “A Woman, a Part,” written and directed by Elisabeth Subrin.

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Strand Releasing

Unresolved feelings and unsatisfied ambitions animate “A Woman, a Part,” Elisabeth Subrin’s sophisticated take on female friendship and professional frustration.

For Anna (Maggie Siff), the 44-year-old star of a popular, long-running television series in Los Angeles, burnout is imminent. Weakened by an autoimmune disease and weary of her brittle character, she abandons the series and returns to New York City to reconnect with the friends and collaborators who helped spark her career. But a lot can happen in two decades, and Anna is about to learn that the bits of ourselves we leave behind can’t always be reclaimed.

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Trailer: ‘A Woman, a Part’

A preview of the film.


By STRAND RELEASING on Publish Date March 21, 2017.


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“I feel like you want something from me,” remarks Kate (Cara Seymour), welcoming yet wary. At 50, Kate is no longer an actor and is facing financial and other crises of her own. As is Isaac (John Ortiz), a playwright and the third member of their former theater group. With a teetering marriage and vague future, the gentle Isaac could have seemed a mere go-between for his two circling friends; but Mr. Ortiz is so quietly compelling that he makes Isaac’s modest ambitions feel improbably consequential.

Touching on issues of artistic survival and the porous boundary between work and pleasure, Ms. Subrin, an accomplished visual artist and filmmaker, sifts addiction, celebrity and the plight of the aging actress into something rarefied yet real. A strong, intelligent screen presence, Ms. Siff can make the simplest line feel pregnant with possibility. And Ms. Seymour is the perfect counterpoint, giving Kate a warm vulnerability that’s never overplayed or milked for sentiment.

In the hands of lesser performers — and in defiance of Chris Dapkins’s clear, bright cinematography — this debut feature would feel unbearably hermetic, its navel-gazing angst wearyingly indulgent. The slighting of women in the entertainment industry (one of Ms. Subrin’s central concerns) has been explored in multiple ways in a variety of venues. Yet, as Ms. Siff demonstrates in her own career (she’s currently enjoying her second season as a rivetingly inscrutable performance coach on Showtime’s “Billions”), television now has no shortage of challenging roles for women. Whatever their age.

So to have Anna, a television actress, bemoan the confines of her industry creates an unfortunate disjunct that weakens the narrative and lessens our sympathy. For that reason, “A Woman, a Part” is most effective when picking at the rivalries and resentments that can bloom among longtime friends, illustrating the chasm between our memories and theirs. That void opens slowly, but if you’re patient, it might just pull you in.

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