The Frida Cinema

Orange County's Year-Round Film Festival

Opening Night

This month’s staff pick comes from our very own Martin Nguyen, who has chosen John Cassavetes’ 1977 psychodramatic masterwork Opening Night, starring the legendary Gena Rowlands.

In her fifth collaboration with her writing/directing/co-starring husband, Rowlands plays Myrtle Gordon, a theatre actress in the midst of crisis while previewing her upcoming play mere days before its opening night on Broadway. After a deadly incident involving a fan of her’s, Myrtle begins to plummet into her fracturing subconscious. The closer it gets to opening night, the more that Myrtle’s behavior threatens to not only destroy the show and the lives around her, but ultimately herself.

Featuring Cassavetes’ beautifully-textured close-ups and some of the tensest, most cerebral sequences of his career, Opening Night has gradually shaped its status as one of the finest films ever made about acting and show business. Leading the show is Gena Rowlands in one of her very best and iconoclastic performances.


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

“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.”  — Richard Brody, New Yorker

“Opening Night is a truly grand unveiling of our innermost fears.” — Stella Papamichael, BBC.com