3 Women (1977)

The value of individuality in many cultures is immeasurable. Some feel as if humans cannot actualize or achieve their full potential until they have reached a consensus of inner solitude and clarity in understanding their true identity. The pressure and temptation to idolize and acclimate with supposedly “greater versions” of ourselves can prevent or hinder that valued pursuit of unique identity discovery. Some may subsequently become illusionary with their position in the social sphere as well as their untouched persona.  3 Women is a 1977 avant-garde drama directed by one of the gurus of ensemble cinema, Robert Altman, which explores the extreme benefits and costs of collectivism versus individuality in a Western society.

Pinky Rose (Sissy Spacek) is an impressionable, clingy teenage girl from Texas who begins working at a California health spa for senior citizens. Millie Lammoreaux (Shelly Duvall) is a highly valued employee of the spa who orients Pinky to her new work environment. Pinky is infatuated with Millie, viewing her as an inspiring, mature, majestic human being who is loved by all. When the opportunity for becoming Millie’s roommate appears, Pinky is only too thrilled to oblige. The third woman, Willie Hart (Janice Rule), is pregnant and paints ancient, mythical, human-like creatures as a means of expressing her perception of reality in the midst of loneliness, suppression, and exceptional introversion. Willie’s obnoxious, womanizing husband Edgar (Robert Fortier) co-owns the apartment complex in which Pinky and Millie live. His presence and distastefulness create great divides and power struggles amongst the three women. Each woman faces and deals with alienation, frustration, and restlessness via distinct and various means which transitions through roads of unity, seclusion, and eventual resolution.


The themes in this convoluted, at times dreamlike film hones understandably into its complexity. Mimicry, reclusiveness, fear, guilt, unison, facades, and personality are some of the notions investigated which emerge from each woman’s evolving sense of relating to their world. There is no hero or villain as is the case in reality. There is an aura of vanity, shame, and uneasiness in many actions executed in the film, which is highly relatable to humankind. The actors, especially Spacek and Duvall, embody this concept remarkably well with great chemistry, thus enhancing the viewer’s discomfort with recognition of their own past sometimes regretful actions. Further through incredible direction, cinematography, and fantasy, this intricate film taps into the raw curiosity, shame, guilt, conflict, and concordance of the human experience.



I do not own the pictures in this post. As well, this post is a part of the Decades Blogathon hosted by Thomas J and Three Rows Back! Please check out their blogs over the next couple of weeks to read about films from years ending in the number ‘7’!



11 thoughts on “3 Women (1977)

  1. I have never seen this movie but your analytic review of the characters and the plight they find themselves certainly has a universal appeal about it. Thanks Charlene; since, I will be looking for this one. It’s odd that I never heard of it because they have top rated actors and it has been around awhile (1977). Great find for me😊

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve never seen this one. I like Sissy very much, so I’ve added this to the ever growing to watch list. It sounds very interesting.

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  3. Hi Charlene, I like your review very much. I saw this film when it came out in the 1970s when I was at Uni and the atmospherics stayed with me for years. It became the quintessential arthouse film for me. I haven’t seen it since, but I can still remember the desert heat, the silences, the women’s reactions to each other and a kind of inner loneliness. It was my first encounter with Sissy Spacek and I found her naive emotionality very affecting (later on it started to get on my nerves a bit, but maybe that was the roles she got). But she’s perfect here, as is Shelley Duvall, who I also saw in Nashville and Annie Hall around that time. I can’t remember whether this was my first Altman film, but I have been a fan ever since. I hadn’t thought about this film for years but oddly this is the second review I’ve stumbled across recently. The other is here https://scopophiliamovieblog.com/2015/08/22/3-women-1977/ . Regards. Peter of Ozflicks

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    • Thanks for your kind words! I love hearing about peoples’ moviegoing experiences, and it definitely stays with you for many years. I love how Sissy Spacek really transforms throughout the film. Also, thank you for linking the other review!

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  4. Great post 🙂 The style of Robert Altman’s 3 Women reminds me of Ingmar Bergman’s Persona and that is a high compliment. 3 Women never feels like a lightweight imitation though and it always feels like the work of a master filmmaker. I love this film and I am a huge fan of director Robert Altman. He is one of my all-time favorite filmmakers (maybe number 1). I have a blog entry on my site regarding my favorite Robert Altman films. Here is the link below and keep up the great work as always 🙂


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    • Thanks! I totally agree with what you said about 3 Women and Persona. 3 Women is an homage but has its own persona (pun intended 😛 ). The list you have is quite detailed! I have to watch more of his films, but I totally agree with Nashville at #1. Such a masterpiece!


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