Sunday, 9 January 2011

Supporting Actress Blog-a-Thon: Tammy Blanchard in Rabbit Hole

One of my favourite blogging traditions of this season is StinkyLulu’s supporting actress blog-a-thon. I can’t profess as unmitigated a love for the category as our venerable host, but time and time again it’s the supporting women who offer up surprising gems that, of course, go unnoticed. One of the terrible things about being deprived of sleep and overly busy, though, is missing out on events like these which meant I took some time to compile a post, or even decide on a performance to feature. My decision to choose Blanchard wasn’t rooted in a desire to go against the grain, the fact is I was mulling over the idea of Dianne Wiest in just because she’s so brilliant and then it occurred to me that the mainstay of StinkyLulu’s feature was celebrating those supporting actors forever on the sidelines – but still doing excellent work – which made Tammy Blanchard’s Izzie an obvious one to write on.
Blanchard, probably most noted for her excellent work as Judy Garland in ABC docudrama Life With Judy Garland: Me & My Shadows, plays Kidman’s somewhat wayward younger sister. I’m still generally flummoxed at the tepid response to Rabbit Hole (my review). Sure, the critics have responded positively but the film has, thus far, made a mere $500,00 at the box-office and other than Kidman’s admittedly stellar work is being virtually ignored by every single awards’ body. David Lindsay-Abaire’s script doesn’t thrive on being especially rote, even though Izzie ostensibly exists as the ying to Becca’s Yang. She’s not really that wayward, even if her first introduction to us is after a bar fight. It’s not the fight that’s important, though, it’s watching the relationship between Becca and Izzie being set up right there. 
All through their conversation it’s not so much that she’s baiting her sister, but Izzie is already used to this and I just love the little moments where the slightest of tics enunciate that. Rabbit Hole moves along gradually and Lindsay-Abaire doesn’t come out immediately and tell us that the main duo is a grieving couple, but the clues are there and not in a thriller-esque way....but in the sort of way we’re given an idea – but not explicitly told. That moment the next morning when Becca finds out that Izzie’s pregnant works a bit like the aforementioned scene. Izzie is deliberately playing her role as the relaxed sibling, but she’s feeling out Becca’s response all along. True, the writing is of special importance, but Blanchard’s interpretation is just as engaging. “Why didn’t you tell me?” Becca asks, and you get the feeling that she really didn’t want to know which makes Blanchard’s response of “Why’d you think?” so important. It’s one of our first “clues” and I love how it rolls off her tongue – when the movie ends and we have all the pieces it’s makes sense that her response is so glib.
Blanchard’s realisation of the role is essential to the tone which Mitchell creates. She can’t act over Nicole – this is her story – and her arc isn’t as easily definable as Wiest’s Nat. She’s a sort of observer, who just so happens to be participating and her intense eyes are an asset. In the same way that you can discern Becca constantly scoping out those around her, you can see Izzie constantly scoping out Becca. For all its deliberateness, Lindsay-Abaire’s script is notable for leaving so much room for thought and it’s as if Blanchard knows that whatever Izzie says – although ostensibly leisurely – is more than just incidental as far as Becca’s concerned. She’s immediately freaked out at the idea of having her child-to-be in her dead nephew’s clothes, and from just watching her eyes dart you know she’s thinking of a way to establish this sensitively. Moreover, it’s the single moment in the film where I realise that it’s not just Becca and Howie who’ve lost someone – Nat and Izzie have lost a relative too. Blanchard’s voice cracks ever-so-slightly as she says how weird it would be seeing her son running around in Danny’s clothes. She knows her sister well enough to know that even though she says she’s fine. When Becca leaves she glances in her direction and her expression there speaks volumes. It’s her lot as a supporting player, and perhaps that is Izzie’s lot as the daughter of a scene-stealer and the sister of a reticent control-freak. The sort of family who get into an argument at your birthday birthday, you have to watch closely to note just how annoyed she is with the situation.
I’m in the process of reviewing 2010 in film with special focus at the moment on Forgotten Characters. Few seem to have remembered her – and Blanchard would make an ideal candidate (regular readers can consider this as Episode Four in 2010 Forgotten Characters). What I love most about Rabbit Hole, though, is the feeling that there’s still another movie going on after the credits roll and I do wonder what will become of Izzie and Auggie. Blanchard has been relegated to middling TV fare but she’s consistently done better than the role deserves (case in point: an undervalued in We Were the Mulvaney’s). Her Izzy here is a plot point, but that doesn’t prevent her from making an impression on me. And really, we wouldn’t be able to appreciate the eccentricities of Becca if we couldn’t value them against her sister. And in that way, Blanchard’s work is more than just interesting – it’s an essential to Rabbit Hole.


Robert said...

Another great post. Like everybody else in Rabbit Hole, her performance has totally been pushed aside but it really is a quiet and lovely piece of work.

Anonymous said...

Both Blanchard and Lindsay-Abaire do the exact opposite to Izzie's character, quieting and rationalizing someone who's supposed to be trashy. To great result.

Anonymous said...

I have a similar situation. Can be discussed.