With Opening Night, John Cassavetes, the cinematic poet of middle-class inner turmoil, explores the angst-ridden world of a famous actress on the brink of breakdown. Preparing a difficult role in a Broadway play, she witnesses the accidental death of a devoted fan, a traumatic event which causes her to re-examine her personal and professional relationships.
Gena Rowlands turns in another virtuoso performance as the troubled actress. Cassavetes’ highly personal work will please his coterie of enthusiasts, but for general audiences it will be viewed as shrill, puzzling, depressing and overlong.
As with his other films, Cassavetes, who wrote and directed, puts a slice of life under the microscope. Across the board, he culls stunning performances from the entire cast, especially Joan Blondell as the writer whose play is being mounted. But it is such a demanding work, so draining, that one must question whether more than a handful of moviegoers are interested in the effort.