Saturday, 13 March 2010

Performances of the Decade (Female)

I always end up having strange relationships with characters I come to love, venturing off into strange arguments about people that were never real to begin with. I don’t think I’m alone, though. The thing is, when a character I like is misunderstood I always feel particularly indignant; but when that character becomes so hated I just end up seeing red. I mean, no one’s perfect. If I were to recall one of the most hated (and misunderstood) film characters of the last, this one would be rather high up.
     
#8 Marcia Gay Harden in Mystic River (2003)
 Celeste Boyle. It’s the name I remember most vividly from Mystic River. In a way, even though I love Mystic River, I don’t leave the film caring about anyone in particular. The sympathetic Dave has died, but if I feel apathetic towards all else I can’t help but feel compassion for Celeste. Celeste is a mouse of a woman married to one of our three protagonists Dave, played excellently by Tim Robbins. The two have a son together and have a fairly average marriage. Due to his horrific childhood kidnapping and molestation Dave has never been a confident man and neither is his wife. There are unanswered questions, but Celeste seems to have a slight fear of her husband and an early moment I recall of Marcia’s talent is the scene where Tim comes home late one night covered in blood. Curiously, it’s the same night that Dave’s daughter was murdered. But I’m getting ahead of myself; Celeste doesn’t know this yet. Dave is a perpetually nervous man and the story he gives is an obvious line. The fear on Marcia’s face is pronounced even as we see her wondering what her husband is hiding. Celeste is simple, but she’s not an idiot.
 
 There’s something for being knowledgeable about things and though Celeste thinks she has the facts she really doesn’t know anything much. This is precisely what makes her so pathetic. And it’s also what makes her so endearing. Celeste is a victim of her circumstances inasmuch as the Greeks. In some way’s Lehane’s multifaceted piece bears resemblance to Greek drama with the characters being forever at the mercy of the Gods. All Celeste really wants is to be close to her husband, but Dave has been so broken in life that he can’t let anyone in – even his wife. Debate has been plentiful regarding Celeste’s visit to Jim. Even in the film Laura Linney’s sly wife asks, “What kind of wife would do such a thing.” And I suppose, it’s a good question. But is it really that difficult to see why she does? I said before she is a mouse of a woman and as Dave becomes less and less responsive to her she is at her wits end and her simplicity becomes obvious. In her naivety she truly hopes to do the right thing and feels that Jimmy should know, not only because his daughter could be the victim but she obviously sees in him what she doesn’t see in Dave she sees in Jim. Someone who can be assertive and find the truth. Of course, she doesn’t realise how unlike Dave Jim is.
I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that Celeste has found little sympathy with audiences though. It’s difficult to hate Jimmy because of the trial he’s gone through and she makes an easy scapegoat. Still, the strongest portion of Marcia’s excellent performance erases any anger. It’s my favourite scene of the film even if it’s not really that ostensibly important. As Jim and Sean have their final conversation the parade begins and with an acute sense of the ominous Celeste may have realises just what’s happened to her husband. No lines are spoken but we just see her frantic running down the street with that frenzied look on her face. It’s then that I realise just how broken the families of this film will be afterwards. It’s an acting moment few can achieve, but Marcia’s face alone pierces me and turns into one of the most harrowing scenes of the decade. A truly great performance...
     
...Or is it? Do you think that Marcia’s Celeste was a performance worthy of recognition?

7 comments:

Alex in Movieland said...

I've seen Mystic River only once in 2004 because... you know... it's not the type of movie I'd want to see twice... so painful.

but I too remember Marcia as being great. so to me the nomination is worthy, it was one of those succesful out-of-nowhere

joe burns said...

Really impressive performance! Even better then Pollock in my opinion. You can read more of my thoughts on her on my blog. I just did a 2003 Best Supporting Actress ranking, go check it out!

Walter L. Hollmann said...

I love this movie, but I feel that Tim Robbins and Marcia Gay Harden kind of overplay their roles, Robbins more so. That last scene, true, is amazing, but I find myself so conflicted about the rest of it. I love Marcia, but I don't always love what she does with Celeste.

Laura Linney, though, is GREAT.

Univarn said...

When I first watched this I felt like Harden was really overselling her role, but I loved Robbins in it. On repeat viewings she's gotten better, but the character's gotten annoying (not her fault). It's one of those thankless roles, because nobody likes that character.

Still, I wouldn't argue with the selection ;)

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

alex it's definitely not the type of movie you want to see unless you have to.

joe i too prefer this to pollock, even though pollock is one of my favourite best suppporting actress wins.

walter i don't quite like laura linney in this, but i'm not sure if i'm hating what she does or the role. that being said, i love her in everything else:)

univarn the character is a tad annoying, but i feel the need to defend her.

M. Carter @ the Movies said...

(If you haven't guessed it yet, I really, really love this movie.)

Laura Linney kills with that speech that resembles Lady Macbeth's in "Macbeth," but the look on Marcia Gay Harden's face at the very end was reason enough to hand her the Oscar.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

m. carter nothing's wrong with loving this movie, i'm so glad i'm not the only one who noticed that look on her face at the end. that speech from laura at the end just freaked me the hell out. psycho.