Synopsis by Tom Wiener
Although Things You Can Tell Just by Looking at Her does bear some similarities to Short Cuts and Magnolia in its setting (Southern California) and mood (modern malaise), and its multiple story format, its focus is exclusively on female characters, and it's possible to view each story on its own. The film begins with a prologue: Police detectives are investigating the apparent suicide of a Hispanic woman (Elpidia Carillo). "This Is Dr. Keener" deals with Dr. Elaine Keener (Glenn Close), a single professional woman attempting to care for her aging and infirm mother and deal with her own loneliness. She invites Christine (Calista Flockhart), a tarot card reader, into her home to make some sense of her life. "Fantasies About Rebecca" profiles a successful bank manager (Holly Hunter) involved with a married man (Gregory Hines). When she learns that she is pregnant, he coldly advises her to take care of the "problem." Before she visits Dr. Keener to have an abortion, she impulsively has a fling with a colleague (Matt Craven). She is also confronted by a female street person in the bank's parking lot. "Someone for Rose" is about a single mother (Kathy Baker), a writer of children's books. She is attracted to a new neighbor, a dwarf (Danny Woodburn), and he catches her spying on him in his house. She's also amazed to find that her son is more sexually active than she knew -- and more than she is herself. "Good Night Lilly, Good Night Christine" details the relationship between the tarot card reader Christine and her lover, Lilly (Valeria Golino), who is critically ill with an unnamed disease. The final story, "Love Waits for Kathy," concerns two sisters, Carol (Cameron Diaz), a lovely blind woman with an active social life, and her police detective sibling, Kathy (Amy Brenneman), one of the detectives who appeared in the prologue. Kathy is attracted to the medical examiner in the suicide case, and her story ends with him taking her out on a date. In an epilogue, Dr. Keener drops in to a bar, where she meets a male character from one of the earlier stories. Debuting director Rodrigo Garcia, a noted cinematographer, is the son of writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Things You Can Tell made its debut on cable television, although it was originally intended to be a theatrical release.
abortion, attraction, bank-personnel, doctor/nurse, dwarf, handicap, lover, relationship, romance, sexual-awakening, terminal-illness, woman