Friday February 12, 1999
For her latest film, a comedy about working mothers in the '90s, Nancy Savoca must have chosen the title "The 24 Hour Woman" because "Scream" was already taken. This is a movie of ear-busting, wall-to-wall, rock-concert-level screaming. Married couples scream, their children scream, and on the set of the New York morning television show where the two wives work, screaming is an occupational necessity practiced as high-decibel art.
As I write this review, 12 hours after enduring "24 Hour," I still cannot hear the keys clicking under my fingers.
Somewhere in the din of Savoca's unruly fourth feature is the story of Grace (Rosie Perez) and Madeline (Marianne Jean-Baptiste, the black daughter who confronts her white mother in "Secrets & Lies") and their attempts to balance the obligations of marriage, motherhood and careers. It's a balancing act that never quite gets its feet under it.
Grace is a high-energy producer for "The 24 Hour Woman," a fluff morning show blasted out of the Nielsen cellar when her hunky actor-husband Eddie (Diego Serrano), the program's co-host, reveals on air that his wife is pregnant and calls her out of the control booth to take a bow. Somehow, this translates as high television drama for the show's opportunistic boss (Karen Duffy), who immediately reformats "24 Hour Woman" as a hit baby-in-progress chronicle.
To keep up with the demands of her new role on the program, Grace hires as her assistant Madeline, an accomplished TV producer in her own right, who's coming off a four-year maternal hiatus, and entrusting the daily child-rearing of her three sons to her unemployed husband, Ray (Wally Dunn). He's not thrilled.
Once Eddie's daughter arrives and Grace begins making parenting demands on him, he's not thrilled, either. In fact, nobody's thrilled. Grace, buffeted by career concerns and maternal guilt, is moving toward a nervous breakdown. She screams, he screams, their baby screams, they all scream for . . . well, about 95 minutes.
"24 Hour Woman," co-written by Savoca and Richard Guay, her collaborator on "True Love" and "Household Saints," must have looked much better on paper. There is some sharp dialogue scattered throughout, and a couple of scenes--one in which a gun-wielding Grace attacks Eddie during a live broadcast--that might have seemed inspired, if they had been well-executed.
But there's an awkwardness, partially intended, about the film that undermines its farcical comedy. For one thing, the morning show that dominates the background of the story is about as slick as public access television. And it's not funny bad, just plain bad.
Savoca clearly means to underpin the nonsense with serious commentary on the difficulty of being a career woman with young children, and ultimately argues for the sanctity and compatibility of both. But all this is wrapped in such siren-testing shrillness that even the occasional insert of a smiling baby can't make the pain go away.
The 24 Hour Woman, 1999. R, for strong language. The Shooting Gallery presents a Redeemable Features/Exile Films Production in association with Dirt Road Productions. Director Nancy Savoca. Producers Richard Guay, Larry Meistrich, Peter Newman. Executive producers Steve Carlis, Donald C. Carter, Daniel J. Victor. Screenplay by Nancy Savoca & Richard Guay. Cinematographer Teresa Medina. Editor Camilla Toniolo. Costumes Kathlene Mobley. Music supervisors Barry Cole and Christopher Covert. Production designer Bob Shaw. Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes. Rosie Perez as Grace. Marianne Jean-Baptiste as Madeline. Patti LuPone as Joan. Karen Duffy as Margo. Diego Serrano as Eddie. Wally Dunn as Ray.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times