Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle (1994)

Rating: D

Dir: Alan Rudolph
Star: Jennifer Jason Leigh, Campbell Scott, Matthew Broderick, Andrew McCarthy

This film poses a dilemma. It comes with a documentary on its subject, Dorothy Parker, which in some ways is essential background — she’s less well known here than in America, but think something like Virginia Woolf and you’ll be in the right zone of “writing and angst”. However, knowing about her almost entirely unhappy life does leave you feeling like you are watching a very slow car accident. Parker staggers from one doomed love affair to another, like the drunk she would eventually become.

Leigh gives a convincing impression of someone – not quite sure it’s Dorothy – sneering her lines through a permanent rictus of superiority, and dropping parties stone-dead by reciting poems about suicide. I do now want to track down her verse, but otherwise you have a lot of chattering socialites being unpleasant to each other, which hardly makes for enthralling stuff, though it’s amusing to see Gwyneth Paltrow (12th-billed!) in an early role.