Wednesday, 27 April 2011

“Woman to Woman”

Last week I gave a listing of films with duo-male leads, and this week it’s time for the women. There are a number of films which depend on strong female ensembles - The Hours, Hannah & Her Sisters, Howards End, Sense & Sensibility, but in each there’s always one player who takes precedence - if they were eligible you know who I'd vote for, right? For me, these five films below do a fine job of paying equal attention to both participants in the duo making for some strong girl on girl action. Interpret that as you will.
Melanie Lynskey and Kate Winslet in Heavenly Creatures (1994)
I know it subverts the entire film’s existence as a vehicle for Pauline’s development, but for me Heavenly Creatures doesn’t really begin until Juliet appears on screen. Lynskey and Winslet are two starkly different actresses, which allows them to do such good work opposite each other – added to their youth which makes their performances less pretentious than older actors might have played it. As far as screen-time goes, Juliet is a supporting player – but I can’t think of this one in any other way than as one with c0-leads.

Shirley MacLaine and Debra Winger in Terms of Endearment (1983)
I, with my high sense of cynicism, like to think of the Oscar win for Terms of Endearment as the most bogus picture win of the eighties – which is saying something considering the slate of winners that decade. The film itself doesn’t particularly hamper the mother and daughter bond of MacLaine and Winger, though a significant amount of it develops with them away from each other. At her best I’d support MacLaine’s win, though there are times I side with Winger. Either way, it’s a fine alliance.

Annette Bening and Julianne Moore in The Kids Are All Right (2010)
There’s little doubt in my mind that The Kids Are Right worked so well because of the alliance of Bening and Moore. It was the first thing that drew my interest to the project, and the chemistry they maintained throughout was what kept me interested in it long after. It’s not just because they’re playing lovers, there’s a striking rapport between them – even as actors (just watch them at the Golden Globes) and it’s that modulation which the film depends on.

Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon in Thelma & Louise (1991)
I feel a bit ridiculous admitting this, but for a long time I couldn’t warm up to Jodie Foster’s work in The Silence of the Lambs because I resented her winning Oscars not only over the Countess de Mereteiul but over one of the strongest female duos – Thelma and Louise. Excessive parodying has turned this into something of a cliché – but the redheaded twosome of Sarandon and Davis is a highpoint of the nineties. Of the five pairs on the list, I don’t think any complements each other as well as they did, but Sarandon has a way of working well with her women (even in lesser fare.)

Anne Baxter and Bette Davis in All About Eve (1950)
There are so many reasons that this one’s a classic. What ii find most interesting about All About Eve when it comes to the duo lead front is the fact that both Bette and Anne have brilliant scenes opposite each other, and on their own and yet the film still manages to foster excellent supporting roles for Celeste Holme and George Sanders (among others). Like with Amadeus last week, I can’t choose between Eve and Margot. Both women are legends of classic cinema, and both offer up legendary performances.
Do you think these five duos have evenly matched players? Which is your favourite? Who’s missing?


MovieNut14 said...

I would have Hepburn and Taylor in Suddenly, Last Summer.

BTW, it's Celeste Holm and George Sanders.

M. Hufstader said...

Excellent post! Terms of Endearment (those two made the movie), The Kids are Alright, and of course, the epic Thelma and Louise. Brilliant choices!

M. Hufstader said...

Excellent post! Terms of Endearment (those two made the movie), The Kids are Alright, and of course, the epic Thelma and Louise. Brilliant choices!

Simon said...

I fondly look back on Greta Garbo and Whatserface in Queen Christina. But that's because I'm wildly unimaginative.

TomS said...

All perfect choices, Andrew. I loved every one of these films, and the performers in the leads.

One that I loved at one time but has faded from view was The Turning Point with Anne Bacroft and Shirley MacLaine.

Also...what did you thingk of Streep/Keaton in Marvin's Room?