'The 24 Hour Woman' showcases female directors

A growing number of American women are making their mark as movie directors, and none has shown a livelier commitment to exploring the complexity of women's lives than Nancy Savoca, whose boldly independent films include the wryly amusing "True Love" and the deeply moving "Household Saints," which gave actresses Annabella Sciorra and Lili Taylor two of their most fascinating roles.

Savoca teams with Rosie Perez for her new picture, "The 24 Hour Woman," which makes up in energy and dedication what it lacks in polish and finesse. As the title hints, it looks at challenges faced by "jugglers" who try to balance the demands of home and family with the requirements of an outside career.

Perez plays a married TV producer who's eager for the rewards of motherhood. Combining the personal with the professional, she goes public with her pregnancy, making it a part of her program, which focuses on women's issues. This turns the show into a top-rated hit, raising the pressure on everyone connected with it and creating more tension during the baby's first year. "The 24 Hour Woman" is frequently ragged around the edges - low budgets and rushed schedules are common in non-Hollywood filmmaking - and it doesn't quite resolve the questions it raises, wishing them away in a feel-good finale that's less convincing than it ought to be.

Yet the movie still ranks with the most entertaining releases of this young year, tackling rich material with a stimulating blend of high seriousness and spirited humor. Praise also goes to the energetic cast, including Patti LuPone as an edgy executive, Wendell Pierce and Diego Serrano as frequently confused husbands, and Marianne Jean-Baptiste as an assistant who may also be a rival. Savoca wrote the screenplay with longtime collaborator Richard Guay, and Teresa Madina did the colorful camera work.

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