Opening Night (1977) - Rotten Tomatoes

Opening Night1977

Opening Night (1977)



Critic Consensus: Opening Night is as dense and difficult as one would expect from John Cassavetes, but even the director's detractors will be unable to deny the power of Gena Rowlands' performance.

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Movie Info

John Cassavetes' Opening Night stars Gena Rowlands (Mrs. Cassavetes) as end-of-tether Broadway actress Myrtle Gordon. She is about to open in a play written by her old friend Sarah Goode (Joan Blondell), but a series of pre-show setbacks and disasters threaten to destroy not only the production but Myrtle's sanity. The actress is especially rattled when one of her staunchest fans dies in an accident. In the face of bleak reality, just how important is the old "show must go on" ethic? Supporting Gena Rowlands are such veterans of the New York-Hollywood shuttle as Ben Gazzara, Zohra Lampert, Paul Stewart, James Karen, and several friends and relatives of the principals. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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Gena Rowlands
as Myrtle Gordon
John Cassavetes
as Maurice Aarons
Lady Rowlands
as Melva Drake
Paul Stewart
as David Samuels
Joan Blondell
as Sarah Goode
Laura Johnson
as Nancy Stein
Ben Gazzara
as Manny Victor
Zohra Lampert
as Dorothy Victor
John Tuell
as Gus Simmons
James Karen
as Newsstand Operator
Jimmy Moyce
as Bell Boy
John Finnegan
as Prop Man
Sherry Bain
as Bartender
Peter Lampert
as Maitre d'
Angelo Grisanti
as Charlie Spikes
Meade Roberts
as Eddie Stein
Eleanor Zee
as Sylvia Stein
Peter Falk
as Himself
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Critic Reviews for Opening Night

All Critics (27) | Top Critics (12)

Cassavetes's most cleverly constructed film is also a definitive lesson in the death-defying, all-consuming art of acting, proof of a madness beyond the Method.

July 5, 2016 | Full Review…

Gena Rowlands turns in another virtuoso performance as the troubled actress. Cassavetes' highly personal work will please his coterie of enthusiasts, but for general audiences it will be viewed as shrill, puzzling, depressing and overlong.

July 28, 2008 | Full Review…

John Cassavetes was unique in his visions and his films.

July 28, 2008

Juggling onstage and offstage action, Cassavetes makes this a fascinating look at some of the internal mechanisms and conflicts that create theatrical fiction.

July 28, 2008 | Full Review…

the film is almost suffocatingly long, even though its ideas about actors, acting and real life are among Cassavetes's most intriguing.

June 15, 2007 | Rating: 4/5

The film of the week is 30 years old and hasn't aged a day. It's John Cassavetes's Opening Night, a truly mesmerising study of anxiety and identity crisis in theatreland.

June 15, 2007 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Opening Night


a mesmerizing film about the theater and aging, akin to 'all about eve' in many ways. knockout performance by gena rowlands in the bette davis role. extra star for joan blondell driving a trans am. one of cassavetes' very best

Stella Dallas
Stella Dallas

Super Reviewer

It was once suggested by Pauline Kael, never a fan, that Cassavetes thought not like a director, but like an actor. What Kael meant was that he lacked sophistication as a filmmaker; to take that comparison further, to me, it never feels like Cassavetes is directing himself in a film, it feels like Cassavetes implanting himself inside his own creation, like Orson Welles. Opening Night is about the mystery of becoming, performing, and acting. Like a haunted Skip James record, it's got the echoes of ghosts all around. Gena Rowlands' breakdowns, which are stupefying and almost operatic, surprising coming from Cassavetes, are accompanied by a jumpy, unsettling piano. It's also refreshing to see some plot points -- Who is this dead girl? The metaphysical possibilities are endless, and it's amazing to find this kind of thing in a Cassavetes film. This is not Adaptation; here, the blending of reality and fiction and drama is not to show cleverness but to show the inner turmoil and confusion it creates. There's so much going on here. The pure, joyous love when Rowlands greets her doorman; the horror when she beats herself up... The scene where the girl talks about how she devoted her life to art and to music is one of the most effective demonstrations of understanding what it means to be a fan of someone. You can see some roots of this in A Star Is Born, and Almodovar borrowed from it for All About My Mother. I think the ending is a little bit of a disappointment in its ambiguity because of the laughing fits, but the preparation leading up to it is almost sickening. (Also, I think it's worth mentioning that I don't think this film is about alcoholism -- despite its urgency in many of the scenes, it's a relatively small point about the film.) It's a living, breathing thing, and it feels like a process: it could go any direction at any time. Like Taste of Cherry, we are reminded that "you must never forget this is only a play." Yet it is dangerous: when Rowlands says that line, is it great drama? How will the audience take it? Is she being reflexive or does she just not care? Her (character's) breakdowns are incorporated into the performances, and ultimately the film, in such a way that it's like witnessing a female James Dean. Yet another stellar collaboration between Rowlands and Cassavetes.

Jonathan Hutchings
Jonathan Hutchings

Super Reviewer


Gena Rowlands is great once again in Cassavtes's "Opening Night". I liked the film especially the madness from the characters. The improvisation is at it's finest but as for the film, I'm not sure if it's great. "Opening Night" is too long and some scenes drag and questions raised a lot in my mind. Take for instance when the Rowlands character keeps witnessing a young girl in her frenzied state. Is the girl real? Why does Rowlands have these strange thoughts in her head? Is she crazy? What is her purpose? I was left sorta baffled.

Brian R
Brian R

Super Reviewer

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