Insignificance (1985) - Rotten Tomatoes

Insignificance (1985)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Movie Info

Using four famous but unnamed individuals to symbolize a notorious era in American politics, as well as to explore the nature of despair, director Nicolas Roeg has created an intriguing drama. Based on a play by Terry Johnson, the story begins with the blond Theresa Russell as a sex-goddess actress working on a scene over a subway grate, with her skirts billowing out in the updraft. A famous Professor from Princeton with white hair opens his door to the actress, who takes out a few props and goes through her rendition of the theory of relativity. Between her theatrical mode of speech and his world of mathematics, there is a certain entente. Enter the ballplayer who is her husband (Gary Busey), in love but without a clue as to the actress' inner sadness. Throw in the senator from Wisconsin (Tony Curtis) before whose sub-committee on Unamerican Activities the Professor has to appear, and the undercurrent of a societal witch-hunt that ruined many careers in Hollywood, in academics, in sports, and in politics is churned into the story. ~ Eleanor Mannikka, Rovi


Gary Busey
as Ballplayer
Tony Curtis
as Senator
Michael Emil
as Professor
Will Sampson
as Elevator Attendant
Shinobu Kanai
as Japanese Woman
Ian O'Connell
as Assistant Director
Richard Davidson
as Director of Photography
Raynor Scheine
as Autograph Hunter
Lou Hirsch
as Charlie
Joel Cutrara
as Bar Drunk
Raymond J. Barry
as Ballplayer's Father
John Stamford
as Young Ballplayer
Desiree Erasmus
as Prostitute
David Lambert
as Young Professor
Cassie Stuart
as Young Actress
Meachell Dunsmoor
as Actress as a Child
Daniel Benzali
as Theatrical Agent
R.J. Bell
as Theatrical Agent
David Montague
as Young Senator
View All

Critic Reviews for Insignificance

All Critics (14) | Top Critics (3)

[Insignificance] rolls along gathering momentum like some enigmatic ball, seemingly going nowhere yet arriving everywhere as it explodes in a shower of illumination.

March 23, 2020 | Full Review…

A true oddity even by the filmmaker's standards, it's a minor masterpiece of American counter-mythology, with the most comically apocalyptic finale since Dr. Strangelove.

November 26, 2018 | Full Review…

It's more of an acting and writing tour de force than a statement on sports, politics, sex symbols or relativity.

January 1, 2000 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

... it's calculated misdirection with little in the way of greater purpose.

October 12, 2017 | Full Review…

an intriguing, but ultimately slight "what if" fantasy

July 13, 2011 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…

Reflects Roeg's views of the absurdity of American history and our compulsion to destroy beauty. [Blu-ray]

June 22, 2011 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Insignificance


Insignificance is an interesting and talky film: part comical, part intellectual, just a bit tragic. It has some upfront symbolism, which may add value if you get it or may irritate you. While it does not really feel much at all like Bunuel films in terms of vibe, it is reminiscent in that it digests human culture through a comical dream play. The performance of Theresa Russell as "The Actress" stands out, she plays her character with a combination of winking intrigue and stoicism. How much of life is an act? How much is play? How much and what should be taken seriously? The character interactions feel at times authentic (or at least sincere), at times spontaneous, but then falling into stereotype. Anyhow, this is the type of film where your enjoyment of it will be largely based on how much you get it (there is not enough else in the film to be appreciated by itself). For myself, I understood it somewhat and enjoyed it somewhat.

Robert Brogan
Robert Brogan

Super Reviewer

I really liked some parts of Insignificance, but there's a forced art house aspect to it that just seems unnecessary and weakens the movie.

Lewis C.
Lewis C.

Super Reviewer

I'm still trying to work out what it all means, but its possible that there isn't a coherent central theme here, other than placing a few of the defining figures of the 50s in one room to see what happens. I found most of it interesting, especially watching the Marylin Monroe character demonstrate the theory of relativity, and while its admittedly confusing I like that its really trying to grasp for the soul of a distinctive American decade.

Alec Barniskis
Alec Barniskis

Super Reviewer

Insignificance Quotes

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