The Drowning Pool

Paul Newman and Gail Strickland in The Drowning Pool (dir. Stuart Rosenberg, 1975).

The second of the two "Harper" movies with Newman, and the better. Newman has toned down his brattiness a bit, and the New Orleans location work is nice, if a little superfluous. Some of Ross Macdonald's distinctive moodiness is allowed in. Overall, however, it shares a flaw with Harper: a large cast of women characters (in this case, played by Joanne Woodward, Gail Strickland, Melanie Griffith, and Linda Haynes) whose lack of self-knowledge compels them to be victimized, and to victimize others. Yes, this comes in part from the structure of Macdonald's novel (all his novels, really), but Macdonald always built in elaborate patterns of psychological background and introspection that made the gender dynamic more complex, if not entirely unproblematic.

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