Friday, 11 December 2009

Long Day’s Journey Into Night

A Streetcar Named Desire and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf all have something in common; it should be obvious but it’s not. Each is based on play by a Pulitzer Prize winner, each stars a quartet of solid actors and each seems intent on the destruction of the female lead.
The film centres on the Tyrone family. The Tyrones are a married couple with two sons Jamie and Edmund and the film chronicles one day in their lives. As gutwrenching as A Streetcar Named Desire and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf are Long Day’s Journey Into Night is the most disheartening of the lot. Mary is on drugs, Edmund could be dying from consumption, Jamie is a recovering alcoholic and it seems that their father is responsible for eveyone’s problems.
Mary Tyrone is one of two characters Kate played that were not exactly you would want to have lunch with. The other was Mrs. Venable in Suddenly Last Summer [from a Tennessee Williams play]. But whereas Violet Venable was a woman closer to a monster than an actual person Mary Tyrone is a more sympathetic character – which is of course one of the reasons Kate preferred it to Violet. It’s a bit of inspired miscasting – Kate playing someone so weak was strange but even though is not my favourite performance of hers, it is still exceptional. Mary Tyrone is not just a character in a movie, she is a complete person. If you look at this movie you never doubt for one moment that this is a real woman. As she touches her hair self consciously, or with shifty eyes eats her lunch or reminisces with her maid about old times. It’s a trait that’s become a lost art. We can believe in Mary Tyrone outstide of the realm of this film, because we truly believe that Mary Tyrone is a real, sad, pathetic woman.
My favourite scenes in Long Day’s Journey Into Night are the scenes between Katharine and Dean Stockwell. As I’ve already said her chemistry with Dean Stockwell is outstanding. Of all the children Kate has borne on film he certainly seems like the most realistic of them all, and considering the competition, that is something. But even though Dean is my favourite, Ralph Richardson and James Robards are both excellent. The Oscar royally ignored this film. Kate’s nomination was the sole accolade for the film. It could have filled out with a Best Actor and Supporting nods, and even a nod for Screenplay, editing, and directing. I would not have nominated it for Best Picture though. I can never fully acquiesce to Eugene O’Neill’s work and sometimes it just all gets to be too much, but Sidney Lumet’s direction is certainly good. It enhances the realism behind the piece even though the dialogue is something quite fantastical.
Long Day’s Journey Into Night is nowhere near my favourite film, it’s inconsistent at times but that’s more the fault of the source. The actors in this film are all celebrated thespians and they turn it into something better. With the aid of Sidney Lumet the film becomes something more. It’s still not perfect, but it’s good. There’s no doubt that that this is the best film that could have been made from this play and in the end it heralds a performance from Kate that is beautiful and fragile, and though not as good as others she’s done is still fulfilling and worthy of praise.

This is for the Blog-a-thon, that's today. I've already some of the entries, and they're good. I'll post the list tomorrow at 10:00.

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