Unstreamable is a weekly column that finds films and TV shows you can't watch on major streaming services in the United States. This week: deep sea hubris in The Abyss, ladies lunchin' in An Unmarried Woman, stylishly unhinged movie stars in Secret Ceremony, and terribly accented movie stars in Circle of Friends.
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USA, 1989, 171 minutes (!), Dir. James Cameron
The film had a notoriously difficult production. Lead actors Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio and Ed Harris had physical and emotional breakdowns on set, and largely refuse to talk about their work on the film. It was mostly shot underwater and so much chlorine was put into the water tank that it burned divers' skin and turned their hair weird colors. The actors did a lot of their own stunts, too—from holding their breath deep underwater to avoiding explosions in the tight submarine set—which led to low morale during the six-month shoot. If there was ever a monument to a director's hubris and terrible labor ethics, it's The Abyss.
That said, I grew up watching this film pretty regularly with my mom (lowkey, because she thinks Ed Harris is "really sexy") while we folded laundry or as she straightened my hair. So much so, that I think about the scene of Harris's character Bud breathing in oxygenated fluid every time I'm struggling to get used to a situation. Thanks Mom. JASMYNE KEIMIG
USA, 1978, 124 minutes, Dir. Paul Mazursky
We've covered a lot of Mazursky's films for this column (Faithful; Next Stop, Greenwich Village; Harry & Tonto)—most of them painfully melodramatic. Mazursky is inconsistent! An Unmarried Woman is not. It stars the mercurial Jill Clayburgh in her breakout role as Erica, a woman who is suddenly "unmarried" after her husband leaves her for another woman. Clayburgh is dazzlingly frank. She carries a poker face when around the film's men. All her largest emotions are kept for herself. It's thrilling. I miss her.
I've been thinking about the relationship between the women in Sex and the City (SATC) and the women in An Unmarried Woman. Both films feature squads of four women, the types of ladies who lunch. It seems clear to me that An Unmarried Woman's Erica, Elaine, Jeannette, and Sue are forerunners to SATC's Carrie, Charlotte, Samantha, and Miranda. Their similarities are spiritual, if not intentional.
The archetypes are almost carbon copies: Erica and Carrie, Elaine and Charlotte, Jeannette and Samantha, Sue and Miranda. These two groups of Manhattan women, both sexually progressive for their eras, speak directly to each other. I like to imagine a scene where they all brunch at the same New York restaurant, and wonder if they would like each other or what they would say. CHASE BURNS
UK, 1968, 109 minutes, Dir. Joseph Losey
When she appeared in this film, Taylor was far from her career high of the early '60s—which is in direct contrast with Farrow, who was fresh off her role in Rosemary's Baby. This fact leads to a strangely magnetic energy exchanged between the two. Farrow plays an obsessive and unwell young woman who believes an old sex worker is her dead mother. Taylor plays the old sex worker who adamantly wants to care for her dead young daughter who resembles Farrow. I like to think the hunger and sorrow behind these roles reflect their careers.
It's one of the most bizarre films I've watched for this column. If you can bare a little incoherence and an incest-y stepfather plot line, Secret Ceremony is a great, unhinged watch. JASMYNE KEIMIG
Ireland | USA | UK, 1995, 103 minutes, Dir. Pat O'Connor
I read on some blog that Circle of Friends is one of Ireland's favorite movies. I'm not sure how the island voted on that, but I'm going to assume it's true and that Circle of Friends is widely available overseas. It's hard to find on our side of the pond.
This softly lit rom-dram follows a few young girls from "Knockglen" (fake town; good name) who beat the odds and go to college in Dublin, but stress about romance instead of their studies. It's regressive. And too Catholic for my taste. But Minnie Driver is the star here, among other stars: Chris O'Donnell as the hunky Irish lead; Colin Firth as the mean scholarly daddy; and bisexual icon Alan Cumming as, regrettably, the rapist.
Everyone's Irish accents are bad, but the lighting is wistful, the greenery is thick, and the hair is fluffy. Minnie Driver is the reason to pull up to this thing. Great film acting is often like bottling magic, but it usually involves an inscrutable face that hides an internal life that is rich and curious and ever-moving. Driver, like Clayburgh, has that type of enigmatic charm. CHASE BURNS