An Unmarried Woman resembles Blume in Love not only in its insight and precise observation of behavior, but also with the emotional satisfactions it provides—Mazursky isn’t afraid to pull out all the romantic stops at the right moment. He wants to record the exact textures and ways of speech and emotional complexities of his middle-class Americans, and he wants to point out the empty places and the hiding places in their lives.
The action unfolds with a documentary-style geographical specificity, offering a time capsule of Manhattan locations, uptown and downtown alike. Mazursky’s achievement is, above all, choreographic: for all the trenchant conversation, he sets the characters into mad motion, alone and together—jogging, dancing, fighting, strolling, embracing—and even the static set-pieces, in bars and at dinner tables, have the sculptural authority of frozen ballets.
In a supremely confident performance, Clayburgh—who appears in every scene—exudes enviable comfort in her ambivalence, subjected to the film’s uniquely sympathetic view of psychoanalysis and colorful depiction of female friendship. Whether this reaches an apex in a scene that links Hollywood starlets with the self-worth of two generations of women, or another that translates empathy into a Paul McCartney singalong—either way it’s good for the soul.