Women on the Inside consists of three half-hour films, each overseen by a different director. Donna Deitch (Desert Hearts) offers Esperanza, about a young boy (Edwin Maldonado) who starts dealing drugs once his mother (Total Recall’s Rachel Ticotin) is sent to prison. In Parole Board, director Joan Micklin Silver (Crossing Delancey) presents a portrait of a woman (Blaze’s Lolita Davidovich) who, years before, killed her husband for beating her repeatedly; now up for parole, the woman isn’t at all sure she wants to leave the camaraderie of her friends in prison to live with her hostile, drug-taking daughter (Elizabeth Moss as the child, Virginia Keehne as the teenager). Both of these films are well acted but predictable and mawkish. The last one is the best: Penelope Spheeris (The Decline of Western Civilization) has directed New Chicks, about two prisoners played by Rae Dawn Chong (Choose Me) and Annabella Sciorra (Reversal of Fortune). When Chong becomes pregnant, Sciorra tries to help her get the baby enrolled in the prison nursery, for which there’s a long waiting list. New Chicks does a good job of conveying the hierarchies of status among prisoners.
In general, though, more care should have been taken when planning this anthology — why is it that all three stories are about women agonizing over their children? Narrowing the subject matter this way is an unnecessary limitation that only serves to stereotype imprisoned women’s lives. Surely there are interesting stories to be told about women inmates who don’t have kids. C