I’M DANCING AS FAST AS I CAN (1982) Jill Clayburgh plays a documentary filmmaker and Valium junkie.

imdancing_usposterTheme Song: None.

Interesting Dated References: Drinking a Spritzer at the bar.

Best Line: Delivered by angry man — “Don’t you lock me out of anything anytime, you understand, and no more pills. You crazy bitch, now what am I going to do?”

Social Context: Technically this movie should have been a good send-up about pill popping and excessively medicated women in the late 70s, but it fails to invoke anything but boredom. There are little bits in the movie where they try to bad mouth the politics of prescription medicine in the U.S., but then they forget what they were doing because of some violin music.

Summary: Chicks being all doped up on prescription pills certainly isn’t anything new in our world. It’s way more socially acceptable these days because of the variety of mind altering anti-depressants and sedatives available. But back in the 70s, there was really only one: Valium. It was the number one prescribed medication in the late 70s. You could get it prescribed by a psychiatrist by just pouting a little and acting anxious.

I’m Dancing As Fast As I Can follows Jill Clayburgh in the role of Barbara Gordon, an award winning documentary filmmaker and Valium junkie. As the movie begins, we see her at the top of her game as she edits a movie. During this sequence, her assistants say hilariously pompous things like, “This is amazing.” Then she goes to an award ceremony and wins. All the while we see her popping Valium. My guess is Clayburgh, herself, and everyone on the set of the movie was on Valium because everyone seems to just sleepwalk through their role.

Eventually she shows her new movie to the dying woman who is the subject of the documentary. This woman hates the film and calls Barbara out on her Valium addiction. Apparently this was all it took to motivate Clayburgh to get off the pills. She and her boyfriend Derek decide to celebrate her sobriety by going to the beach. Getting off Valium must be tough because she’s been sweating, shaking, and just looking like shit in general. While at the beach, she collapses and has a seizure I want to discuss for a bit. My guess is the filmmakers were trying to realistically show what a seizure looks like. This is a noble effort and certainly keeps with the average, realistically boring movie so far. Unfortunately, the aforementioned seizure scene has not aged well:

For real though, what the is going on here? I think they have two men actually shaking Clayburgh off camera, one resting on her pelvis while the other guy tries to tear her shoulders out of their fucking sockets.

This is where the movie fucking shifts from Lifetime drama to weird-70s-hostage-rape-movie. There’s no rape, but you know what I mean. Derek locks himself and Clayburgh in her apartment while she detoxes from Valium. I was not aware of this, but I guess Valium detox is pretty intense, or at least that’s what the filmmakers want you to believe. So Clayburgh gets all fucking goofy and starts acting like a five year old and a conspiracy theorist. Derek, played by Nicol Williamson, suddenly turns from mild-mannered businessman drunk to super-misogynist-masochist-torturer guy. He must be on PCP. He and Clayburgh fight, scream, and throw shit at each other for a good 10 minutes. Derek ties her down so she can’t go to a doctor and get pills. Eventually, some friends show up and Clayburgh is “rescued,” even though she is now totally insane from her Valium withdrawal.

The doctors look her over and prescribe even more medications for her and then have her committed with little to no explanation. Then guess who shows up. That’s right, Joe Pesci, playing one of the asylum lunatics. It seems the movie just turned into some type of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest-type movie. Clayburgh argues with her shrink, interacts with the other crazy people, has a music montage sequence, and then suddenly is cured. After being released, she sets about finishing her film, arguing with John Lithgow, and mending her friendship with the documentary subject woman. When the documentary woman dies, Clayburgh finishes the film. Then this boring movie ends.

Poster and Box Art: I’m convinced everyone who was involved with this movie later went on and formed the Lifetime Network. This includes the people who designed the poster.

Availability: If you must own a physical copy Amazon, but isn’t really worth buying.

Leave a Reply