Friday, 19 March 2010

Performances of the Decade (Female)

I’m not an apologist for the Oscars, I’m wise even to know that more often than not we’ll differ on what we believe to be the best. Still, sometimes a snub is rather hurtful. It’s one thing for a film, out of their radar and with no prior citations to be ignored. But, when a performance is in the limelight showing up and precursor after precursor I have to wonder just what happened. I can’t vouch on it, but this was probably the most surprising Oscar omission in the acting categories this last decade. Incidentally, it's a biopic worth remembering like those mentioned by Pam in her guest post.
# 5 Angelina Jolie in A Mighty Heart (2007)
I suppose, if I’m honest with myself, it’s difficult to separate Angelina Jolie from her ubiquitous public persona. The thing is, unlike the usual paparazzi favourites Angelina Jolie actually has a talent for acting. It becomes hazy but she’s done excellent work in Gia, George Wallace, Girl Interrupted (I’d throw in Changeling too) and yet, none can compare to the excellence of her Marianne Pearl – a performance that haunted me for weeks after seeing it and remains as a brilliant feather in her cap. We remember her more for her wild youth, so the serenity and reserved nature of Marianne Pearl doesn’t seem like a natural role for her. But we don’t ever really know the actors we admire, or perhaps she’s just that talented. Regardless, her Marianne Pearl is an excellent incarnation.
The story of Marianne Pearl is not a new one. The film is faced with the plight of giving us a story hinging on an outcome that we already know. We are aware that her husband is never returning, so suspense is a difficult thing to discern. But, that’s where Angelina comes in. I'm not certain if it's her skill in showcasing Marianne's dedication or the subtlety, but there are moments when we even suspend our thinking - hoping - that Daniel will return.. Marianne is a woman too thoughtful of others to break down. She's pregnant, but she's not frail and she tries her utmost to keep her emotions at bay as she attempts to uncover the truth. It's an anxiety that Angelina taps into excellently. There's a moment when she seems exceedingly distraught and a glimpse of an Indian child makes her smile. It's such a simple, unartificial moment and she convinces completely. She shouldn't enthrall us as much because as good as the film is it is almost a docu-drama in some forms. There are few striking moments of "actressing" that she gets to do and that's what makes this so special. Angelina becomes Marianne. It's more than the makeup and costume, but all traces of the Angelina we think of are gone. There's a subtlety, and quietness to her movements even as we look at her face we can almost imagine her thoughts.
I remarked sometime earlier that I was saving up a performance on the list that represented my favourite crying scene. It was this. The scene probably shouldn’t work quite as well as it does, the Marianne we’ve seen earlier doesn’t quite persist with the breakdown. But it makes sense if we think about it. The horrific scream as she pounds the wall trying to hold on to a memory of someone already gone is an excellent moment of the film. Marianne Pearl said she made sounds she'd never made (or heard) before when she learnt of Daniel's execution and Angelina conveys this. It's an uncomfortable moment to watch and it is thoroughly heartbreaking. As the film winds down and Marianne must face the world Angelina continues to keep hold of the role and painstakingly she convinces us completely of Marianne. It's a performance I treasure, even if it's often remembered. It's ironic that in 2007 she and Brad were snubbed for the best work they've done...

We can't deny that glamour of Angelina, but her talent is often called into question. Is her Marianne Pearl a worthy inclusion?


Nigel said...

definitely one of her gems.

I really want Angelina Jolie to tackle comedy----I'm ready for something other than this partial-versatility of hers (action, drama, thiller..that's it)

CrazyCris said...

I thought she was brilliant in this!

And I personally have no problem with movies to which we already know the outcome (as cetain biopics, historical dramas etc), because what counts is HOW they get there! :o)