Directed by Vyacheslav Krishtofovich. Starring Inna Churikova, Svetlana Ryabova, Maria Golubkina, Elena Bogdanova. (1990, NR, 79 min.)
REVIEWED By Pamela Bruce, Fri., Oct. 9, 1992
Not to be confused with the 1949 Tracy-Hepburn battle of the sexes comedy of the same title, Krishtofovich's film is instead an engaging domestic drama woven as a rich tapestry of shifting moods and compelling performances. The narrative centers around three generations of women who reside together in a cramped apartment located in an unspecified Russian city. The eldest -- Grandmother (Bogdanova) -- is bedridden, toothless and mute, holding on to the nostalgic haziness of the past, and constantly making her matriarchal presence known to the other members of the household via an imperious-sounding bell that hangs over her bed. Her twice-divorced, middle-aged daughter Nina (Churikova) works in a museum, and remains thoroughly jaded about romance until a persistent suitor begins to woo her with flowers and passion. Lida (Ryabova) -- Nina's eldest daughter -- tries to hang on to a fragile slice of the good life by having an affair with a married man who works in her office, and whose material perks include a car, a cozy, private love nest for their rendezvous, and the potential for a luxurious vacation. The youngest daughter Nastiya (Golubkina) is already world-weary, cynical -- and pregnant at the tender age of 15. With a neorealistic touch, Krishtofovich pulls the viewer into the everyday details of these women's lives almost to the point of creating a sense of claustrophobic voyeurism. Rather than being a handicap, though, this is exactly what makes the film work, for it allows the viewer to form an empathic link with the characters, and to understand the omnipresent, bleak socioeconomic circumstances these women must endure in order to find any sort of happiness or pleasure in life. Adam's Rib may not be for everyone. You won't find any hard-hitting action or special effects here. Just a nice little story with an open-ended conclusion that hints of better things to come.