Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Forgotten Characters 4.2

Ensemble films tend to turn up when you get to thinking about forgotten characters. With casts that are as expansive as most large ensembles there is some actor who ends up getting shafted – especially when their role isn’t as pivotal to the story’s major arcs. Thus, in a way, I can understand why this particular performance isn’t remembered more often but I still have massive love for

Patricia Clarkson in Vicky Cristina Barcelona
as Judy

Judy is something of an emissary in Vicky Cristina Barcelona. It’s her house that Vicky and Cristina stay at whilst in Barcelona; it’s through her – tangentially – that they meet Juan Antonio and so on. Vicky Cristina Barcelona isn’t quite classic Woody so there’s a tendency for Judy’s appearances in the film to feel a bit perfunctory at times but that’s where Patricia Clarkson comes in. She’s more than adept at acting from the side-lines and infuses Judy with some interesting tics to make her more than just a springboard for the film’s bigger issues. One of her first lines in the film is her throwaway, “It’s so nice to have a little action around here” to the girls. It sounds a bit on-the-nose considering the hijinks they’ll get in to later but I like to think of it as proof of how much of an instigator Judy likes to be. She wants the girls to get into shenanigans so she can live vicariously through them, but as early as her first scenes you get the feeling that she’s jealous of their youth. When Vicky talks of her academic future and her fiancĂ©, Judy glibly responds,
“All her conflicts will be resolved when he makes her pregnant.”

It’s not even said bitterly, that’s just what Judy thinks of married woman – no identity.

It’s a lead up, of course, to her big scene in the beginning of the film’s third act, after Vicky witnesses her kiss with her husband’s friend Jay.
“I haven’t been in love with Mark for years.”

It’s not the most seminal of monologues, she goes through the usual concepts of an unhappy marriage, a fear of getting out of it, the moment passing but it’s not so much the lines as Patty’s expressions through out.
 And that line, “I can’t leave him now, and I know I never will.”

Our final shot of Judy occurs after her misguided attempts to get Vicky to hook up with Juan Antonio. With her plans awry she settles, desolately, back into her routine – no excitement to vicariously enjoy. If that isn’t the face of a woman with a backstory, I don’t know what is.
Perhaps it’s not Woody’s Judy which is memorable…it’s Patricia’s interpretation of it.
Do you have any left over love for Patty in Vicky Cristina Barcelona, or is she lost in the shuffle?


Walter L. Hollmann said...

Well, I'm in love with Patty C to begin with, but this is one of the movies that pushed me to it. What she does with what she has to work with is nothing short of masterful.

Candice Frederick said...

i did totally forget she was in this movie, as the main trio kinda steals the show. but Patricia Clarkson is just so so good, in everything. she has a lot of smaller roles but they're usually highlights from the movie. Case and point: Shutter Island.

Robert said...

I LOVE her in this movie, and I'm glad to see you write this up about her because I know you love her too. The first time I saw VCB I thought she stole the show from underneath Penelope Cruz!

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

walter "nothing short of masterful" - i love that. she's so good in these bit roles (great in shutter island and easy a playing from the sidelines. i wish she'd show up and be brilliant in every movie.

candice glad to see someone else is remembering her work on shutter island.

robert pe is luminous in this, but i get what you mean. marie elene comes through like a storm, but judy leaves you thinking even after the storm dissipates.