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ĎAdamís Ribí

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
August 14, 1992


George Cukor
Spencer Tracy;
Katharine Hepburn;
Judy Holliday;
Tom Ewell;
David Wayne
Not rated

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Three generations of Russian women demonstrate their resilience in "Adam's Rib," a curious domestic drama that proclaims: They are babushkas, hear them roar.

Set in a crumbling, soot-stained Russian city, the film looks at four single women and their methods of coping with the disintegration of the Soviet system. The tiny household is headed by the 50-year-old Nina (Inna Churikova), a twice-divorced museum guide with a daughter by each marriage and a bedridden mother (Elena Bogdanova). They remain amazingly amicable considering they share a two-room apartment and each morning begins with an argument over who is to empty Grandmother's bedpan.

Nina's youngest daughter (Masha Golubkina), a sullen 15-year-old, is least likely to take on the chore, which sets Grandmother to ringing her bell like a ship captain who just spotted an iceberg. A typically cynical but endearing brat, the girl amazes her mother with a gift of beef tongue. True communism, she explains, "is being friends with your local butcher." Her elder sister (Maria Golubkina), a more pedestrian thinker, sleeps with her married supervisor, who is promising to take her on a seaside vacation.

There is a slew of men in the women's lives, all of whom are invited to join the family at a big dinner held in honor of Grandmother's birthday. Nina invites her current lover as well as her former husbands, who still adore her. The evening becomes increasingly uncomfortable as the men squabble over Nina, the fathers over their parental superiority, and the bottles of vodka, cognac and Cinzano run dry. When the party's over, the women console themselves around the kitchen table as Grandmother, attempting to get their attention, breaks her bell in the other room.

Written and directed by Vyacheslav Krishtofovich, "Adam's Rib" doesn't really have an ending, but we can guess at what tomorrow will bring. And that's more of the same. It's not a happy film, but it is well acted and watchable. Not so pointedly political as either the clunky communist tractor movies or those made post-perestroika, it manages to be almost universal -- if you happen to live in the former Soviet Union.

"Adam's Rib," in Russian with English subtitles, is not rated and contains adult situations.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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