This movie is really all about Joanne Woodward’s performance, which is good, because she won an Oscar for it. Other than that, though, it’s a very slow trip downhill.
First, we meet Eve White. She’s an unfulfilled 1950’s housewife with low self-esteem, married to Ralph, a dolt, and mother to Bonnie. She starts to have blackouts, headaches, and mysterious shopping trips that she doesn’t remember. She gets sent to psychiatrist Dr. Curtis Luther and then we meet Eve Black, a party girl who likes to wear racy dresses, sing in nightclubs and in general do things that would appall Eve White. Luther diagnoses Eve as having multiple personality disorder. This puts a pretty big strain on Eve’s life and marriage. Ralph isn’t very supportive because he’s unable to comprehend what a mental illness is, because he himself lacks a brain.
Most of the film is actually pretty dull. You just feel sorry for Eve White and, though Eve Black is more entertaining, I tired of her the way people are tired of Lindsay Lohan’s antics. I almost turned it off, but it started getting interesting when Ralph took Eve Black on a getaway to Jacksonville, Florida. Classy old Ralph was cheating on his wife with his wife. And it was creepy. Eventually, Ralph and Eve divorce, and their daughter goes to live with relatives. After treatment, a third personality, Jane, appears. Jane seems fairly well-balanced and well-adjusted. Over time, Jane recounts the childhood trauma that caused her personality to split. The Eves go away. The remaining, whole Jane marries a wonderful man who has a brain, and she regains custody of her daughter.
The film’s portrayal of what is now called dissociative identity disorder is extremely outdated compared to today’s understanding, but it was still surprisingly compassionate in its portrayal. And I don’t believe that the pat happy ending is what really happened to the woman who was the case study for the film, but such are movies from the 50’s.
As I said before, this movie really is all about Joanne Woodward, who was outstanding at playing what was essentially three very different people. Other than that, it’s frustrating, slow and the rest of the cast is unremarkable. Or maybe Joanne Woodward is just so awesome that everything else around her is boring. She was married to Paul Newman, after all.