Monday, 17 January 2011

Forgotten Characters 3:5 (2010 in Review)

We all know those types of movies, the one where the one actor mugs the camera for 120 minutes and no one gets a chance to get a significant scene in edgewise. Sometimes it works because some actors can actually make than 120 minutes splendid – Julia Roberts, case in point. The thing about Julia, though, is that it doesn’t really seem like she’s mugging. She’s just doing what she does best, being luminous for the camera. Even when the film seems made for her only she’s always bound to have that important connection with her scene partners which is a reason I feel the need to remember a performance like this:
Viola Davis in Eat Pray Love
 as Delia Shiraz

Eat – Pray – Love, those are the three parts of the story that we’re told about, but what about the part before in New York? Which incidentally happens to be the strongest arc of the film? It’s weird – well not really, Gilbert’s “plight” is not really that. She just seems like an unsatisfied woman, and there’s no shame in that. And that chemistry that Viola and Julia create early in the film is the sort of thing you wish we could have an entire film on, my review. Viola has a bulk of scenes opposite Mike O’Malley (charming as ever) and the two manage to create that sort of off-kilter New York relationship that’s both traditional and unusual. The thing about Viola is that she’s so naturally charismatic, that her sometimes effusive charm is often used for the niche roles in films – the austere government official, the intrusive wife, the secretly evil agent, etc. So, it’s nice to just see her relax and not play anything particularly overwhelming. She doesn’t have to carry the brunt of any exposition on her shoulder, just exist in conjunction with Julia – and she does.
It’s like that fairly funny moment when she takes out the “box” from under her bed to show how much she’s been waiting for marriage and motherhood. What’s always struck me for Viola – and the way she’s managed to grow on me after all these years, is how full of her characters she seems. Not in an annoying way, but she always seems so in touch with them and what I love about her relationship with Delia is how she doesn’t decide to trivialise her and her estimations. A lesser actress might have tried to amplify the tension by turning her into a best friend with vaguely jealous inclinations – but Viola doesn’t even care to do that. But she doesn’t care to turn her into that crazy carefree stereotype either – you know the type I’m talking of. True, the New York chapter works because there are SO many actors doing good work in small bits – O’Malley, Crudup, Franco all work better with Julia than most of the cast. But it’s Viola I single out because she’s so good with her protagonist. I’d love to see her and Julia team up again, but done right this time with her actually having a real role to play.
Eat Pray Love was undoubtedly the Julia show, but could you spare any love for Viola’s Delia?
Previously Forgotten in 2010

1 comment:

Jose said...

People probably forgot her because she was playing the same thing once again.
I'd like to see a movie where the mature white lady is HER supporting best friend and not the other way around.