Pinky Rose (Sissy Spacek), a timid and awkward young woman, begins a job at a health spa for the elderly in a small California desert town. There, she becomes enamored with Millie Lammoreaux (Shelley Duvall), a confident and talkative employee.
Both natives of Texas, the two begin to develop a friendship and, in spite of their stark personality differences, decide to become roommates. Pinky moves in with Millie at the Purple Sage Apartments, owned by a has-been cowboy, Edgar Hart, and his wife Willie (Janice Rule), a mysterious pregnant woman who paints striking and unsettling murals.
Millie takes Pinky along on her evening visits to Dodge City, a local tavern, and a shooting range also owned by Willie, where Millie continuously talks incessantly. Tensions begin to rise between Pinky and Millie over their living situation; one night, when Millie prepares a dinner party for friends who fail to show up, she gets into a fight with Pinky and leaves the apartment, only to return with Edgar Hart, Willie’s drunk husband, and the two have sex. Pinky, distraught, jumps off of the apartment balcony into the swimming pool, attempting suicide.
Pinky survives the attempt but goes into a coma, and her parents arrive from Texas to visit her. When she regains consciousness, she doesn’t recognize her parents and insists they aren’t hers, and she is sent home with Millie to recover. As the two assimilate back into their lives, Pinky begins to exhibit increasingly uncharacteristic behaviors— she begins drinking and smoking, has an affair with Edgar, and spends her time at the shooting range, just as Millie had.
Millie becomes increasingly frustrated by Pinky’s imitative shift in personality, and begins to exhibit Pinky’s timid and submissive personality herself. One night after Pinky has a bad dream (represented through an abstract montage of Millie crying and Willie’s bizarre murals), a drunk Edgar enters their apartment and awakes them, telling them that Willie is about to give birth. The two drive to Edgar and Willie’s farmhouse, where Willie is alone and in labor.
Director: Robert Altman
Year of Release: 1977
Character to watch: Shelley Duvall as Millie Lammoreaux.
Journal your answers to the following questions after you watch the movie.
- How does this particular character’s journey compare with yours?
- Did the character develop certain characteristics during the movie that you have or that you would like to have? If so, what are those characteristics?
- What obstacles did this character face? What was his or her biggest challenge?
- What would you have done differently if you had been in the same position as the character?
- Is this character the type of person you would be friends with? Why or why not?