Sunday, 14 March 2010

Performances of the Decade (Female)

By now you’ve probably heard me mention internal acting quite often. Sometimes it doesn’t work, but you’d have realises I tend to get all hot and bothered when an actor shows talent in keeping their emotions at bay but still relaying their feelings to the audience. Mirren in Gosford Park and Whishaw in Bright Star were noticeable for this trait as was this particularly exceptional performance.
#7 Julianne Moore in The Hours (2002)
 Julianne stars as Laura Brown, the protagonist of the middle story of The Hours. While Virginia writes about Mrs. Dalloway and Clarissa lives it Laura reads about the women. It’s a symbolic action because Laura Brown is a spectator who yearns to be on the inside. Still, it would be a disservice to The Hours and to Julianne to call her the clichéd dissatisfied housewife of the era. We catch only a day in the life of Laura and in many ways it’s not as obvious a pivotal day as Clarissa and Virginia but Julianne convinces us. From the very first shot of Julianne I know something is off about Laura. Look into those eyes and they’re completely empty. It’s an emptiness that becomes more pronounced as the day goes on.
It would seem that Laura is the least sympathetic of the three, but I never can judge them against each other, and she's not bad just misunderstood. I always see her as a woman more worthy of our pity that hate. It’s like the story of the mother in Lawrence’s “The Rocking Horse Winner”. We can palpably notice Julianne’s attempt at loving her child. The kisses, terms of endearment but there are those moments (blink and you’ll miss them) where her discomfort is obvious and unnerving. It’s there in her enunciation too. It’s as if she’s speaking as slowly as possible to buy time, she’s not sure how to communicate with this person. I spoke about Clarissa’s defining moment with her visitor and Laura has hers too – Kitty. Next to Kitty’s almost violently bubbly behaviour (a superficial one) Laura seems even more dour. I like the moment, for example, when Kitty inquires as to the plot of Laura’s novel. I love Laura’s response “It’s about this woman...well, she's a hostess, and she's incredibly confident, everyone thinks she's fine - bu she isn't." It’s such a strange summation of the novel and Julianne’s intonation always chills me, even though I’m not sure why.
Julianne is forced to act in vignettes because Laura really is the least defined of the three women, she is more of a plot point than a character on her own. So Julianne must act with her eyes. For example, the tortured look of conflict as she leaves Richie at the babysitter. She already knows what she plans to do, and a favourite moment of mine is when she decides (or is Virginia who decides…) that suicide is not the option. The gasp and the teary eyes are terrifying and a complete conveyance of emotion even though, really, we haven’t been given that much information. The ending of her portion as she cries in the bathroom is always a punch in the gut and though I’ve not quite understood Laura – as yet – I still feel profound sympathy for her.
…Of course, she returns. She is the only woman to exist in more than one chapter, and she nails it. Her line to Meryl “It was death, I chose life” is one in many excellent line readings in the film and as she accepts her life – and her son’s lack thereof – I always applaud Julianne for crafting brilliance where few could have succeeded as well.
This remains as the peak of my appreciation of Julianne and I will continue to praise her subtlety here. But what do you think of her Laura Brown?


joe burns said...

I was disappointed by her. Something felt off to me. That scene when she was leaving her son felt forced. But I felt her last scene was great! I might have been disappointed because I saw Far From Heaven first and loved her so much in that. I might rewatch her performance on Twister's Youtube account though.

Robert said...

I was just waiting for you to write about this one!!! Julianne was my favorite in "The Hours" and from the beginning she just captures and torments the viewer. Such a great performance.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

twister i didn't like her as much in far from heaven

robert i'm glad you're a fan