New York, May, 1949
Anna Magnani who is the international screen’s most volcanic actress, by far, as well as one of its greatest, has plenty of chances to boll up, overflow, erupt and otherwise give play to her pyrotechnical style in “Woman Trouble” at the Little Cine Met. As the fiery, trigger tempered wife of a poor devil who can’t find work, the inexhaustible lady storms, bellows, wheedles, plays the martyr with all stops out and even, on occasion, subdues her torrential outbursts to become soft and loving.
It’s quite an exhibition that La Magnani puts on in this new Italian importation and, frankly, it is the film’s only substantial asset. In spite of several other good performances, particularly by Massimo Girotti as the husband, and in spite of being filled with that vigorous down-to-earth spirit characteristic of the better, postwar Italian films, “Woman Trouble” is chiefly Magnani. It’s definitely worthwhile for any one willing to settle for great naturalistic acting that is not without its virtuoso aspects.
Even with her, though, the bones show through in this contrived story of an honest wretch, driven by his family’s hunger, who steals a car and runs through a lifetime of worry and near- disasters within 24 hours trying to sell it. A disorderly mixture, “Woman Trouble” starts off as poignant domestic drama, turns into melodrama, shifts to comedy and weaves back and forth through the various moods—frequently combining several at the same time—to close on a happy, subdued note.
The story is of the simplest. When Magnani accidentally learns that er husband and another chap are going for a car ride, she immediately decides that they’re going to pick up some women and joins them, much against their will, bringing her small child along, too. Thereafter, they run into all sorts of trouble, largely because of the wife being innocent of the real purpose of the trip, which is to sell the car to a “fence.”
There’s some good, honest comedy here, especially in the uproar when the “fence” suddenly turns honest and religious after a lifetime of wrongdoing and the street riot as Magnani eggs on her bedeviled husband, but the film is primarily a showcase for Magnani. Occasionally her strident outbursts begin to jar on your eardrums and other senses, but she’s still an amazing performer to watch. One of the best.