Hysterical Blindness by Laura Cahill
Hysterical Blindness is the winner of one Golden Globe, for Best Performance by an Actress in a Miniseries, and it won three Primetime Emmys, including for Outstanding Supporting Actor and Actress.
However, the film is not very rewarding, an opinion expressed by 2,976 viewers who have rated this feature with only 6.5 stars, on IMDB.
Uma Thurman is Debby Miller, role for which she has won the aforementioned Golden Globe, and Juliette Lewis is Beth, Gena Rowlands plays Virginia Miller, Debby’s mother and finally, Ben Gazzara portrays Nick, Virginia’s suitor.
Debby is hysterical, at least in some scenes, although her depression, lack of self-esteem, rejection by a ruthless, insensitive man called Rick explains many of the exaggerated, over the top acts committed, if not all.
Beth is a single mother, who still likes to go out, indeed, at one point she shouts she wants to party all night and her friend, Debbie has to point out that it is late and Amber Autumn is waiting at home for her parent.
The two women frequent Oliver’s Bar, where the bartender Bobby flirts with Beth, who forgets her duties as mother, to some extent, having to answer the phone and try to soothe her daughter, as the latter threatens to call her grandmother in Florida and complain of being left alone.
Nevertheless, it is Debby who has more problems, as she imagines that Rick could be the man of her dreams, potentially the man she would marry in the foreseeable future, but who has no intention to get married.
One night, as Beth is still in the bar, talking too much with the bartender who is beneath her condition, in the opinion of her girlfriend, Rick talks to Debby and he concludes with a simple “cheer up”.
This normal, usual salute is blown out of proportions by the young woman who sees the encounter as something out of Romeo and Juliet, not that she is sure to have read it, if we are mean and consider her lack of education and the poor judgment on display in most situations.
Convinced that there is magic between her and the handsome, pool playing young man, Debby is forthcoming and alluring, reminding one to a certain degree of Jodie Foster in The Accused, wherein her character is sexy and attractive, but alas falls victim to predatory, raping men.
Debby takes the invitation to visit Rick and in his apartment, she is impressed with the work he has done in there, very fast mentioning – a tactical mistake, explained by her conviction that they are compatible with each other- that she is very good at oral sex.
The man urges her to come closer, they have sex and he sleeps on the floor, which makes the partner complain about the hard surface, only she has to insist to make him get into the bed- he was so selfish as to keep staying where he said he likes it, without caring about the woman.
This is the behavior that the man who is only interested in sex maintains, not showing too much inclination even to have intimate relations again, except for a later scene when he wants to take the heroine to his place.
Debby is losing not just her patience, resilience, composure, persistence, equanimity- if she ever had it- prudence, perspective and self –regulation, but she also starts dancing in a very chaotic…hysterical blindness.
The title may refer to the fact that her infatuation is actually a frantic lack of judgment, a plunge into a darkness wherein the woman feels attracted, close to a man that is cold and unlike the image she has composed of him- gentle, hardworking, serious, loyal, attached to her and destined to be more than a passing lover.
In truth, the young man had made no promises and never talked marriage, not even companionship, friendship and the woman had been too frenzied in her impetuous charge on him, with her quick offer to fellatio, but he is not guiltless, innocent, for his behavior is cruel, without compassion.
Simplifying, Rick treats the woman he slept with like a dog, when he comes to the bar to play pool with male friends and tells her that, if she wants to have sex, he will come to take her to his place, later in the night.
Debby is left alone, drinks too much alcohol, listens to the music and says that one melody and then another is spectacular, starts dancing alone, with ample movements, shaking her head more and more, until it appears she has lost control of herself and she is so desolate that this movement is just an expression of emptiness, disappointment, blindness, loneliness, lack of perspective, need of affection, recognition and so much more.
Alas, when she goes to the man who wants sex later on in the night, he is not just disinterested in dancing, which he rejects when she is asking him, but he is also rude, distant, cold, detached, inhumane, despicable, strange to the point of acting like this is the dog which is supposed to wait outside the place where humans only are entertained.
This is a nadir and the heroine may at last become aware of what the real situation is, who the man she has made so much effort to magnify is, what the future looks like, for any scenario is without this individual who is unwilling to dance with, notice, and even communicate with her.
Meanwhile, Virginia has her own issues in her relationship with Nick and the tension between mother and daughter is in evidence at some moments, only to be replaced by affection, when Debby comes back home, to cry in the arms of her parent, finding solace after the traumatic association with Rick.