Wednesday, 19 February 2014

2013 in Review: Forgotten Characters

As per usual, I tend not to decide on “best of” lists as soon as the year in film ends. I need as much time as possible to percolate over my decisions and I’ll be officially heading into the 2013 categories (miscellaneous and traditional) on March 1. Looking back on the previous year in film, especially the good parts, is always a nice focus for writing especially since with my meagre output in 2013 there are so many films I still haven’t devoted any words to.

Before the Year in Review begins with 2013 Openings next week, I’m taking some time to continue one of my favourite original features from the blog – singling out some of my favourite Forgotten Characters from 2013 films. What is a Forgotten Character, you may ask? Sometimes the definition gets a bit murky but essentially Forgotten Characters can fall into one of two slots – characters with a single scene which the film acknowledges, but ultimately does not develop enough to become a fully rounded character or a background character who appears in a few scenes or more but is relegated to extreme superficial existence. When all else fails, it’s a fine way for me to recognise performances which are technically slight in screen time or focus, but which impress me nonetheless. For example, this performance.

Portia Doubleday in Her
as Surrogate Date Isabella

I did not review Her, but I find it mostly charming although it spends so much time vacillating on its tone and on deciding whether to approach its themes with explicit brusqueness or fine subtlety that I'm unable to truly love it. When it’s on point, though, it's especially excellent almost always having its most profound effect on me for its dramatic than its comedic. Doubleday’s appearance is brief occurring over a single scene as the surrogate date Samantha hires for her and Theodore. The mere set-up of the moment fills Theodore with unease, and us, too. It seems destined to fail as Isabella communicates with Samantha acting as simply a body for Theodore to have sex with. And, as enthusiastically game as she is the moment seems certain to be doomed. And, it is.

The awkwardness of the foreplay scene with Phoenix is marked mostly by Theodore's reluctance but Doubleday is so curious to watch just for the way she seems so invested in an almost pathetic way. Even before she begins to speak we wonder, What sort of person is this who would agree to this? And when Theodore voices his discomfort sending her rushing to the bathroom in tears the moment could be humorous but treads the line between comedy and tragedy just because it only shines a light on how sad and broken even the most peripheral characters are here.

I wanted to be a part of that!
She says of Samantha and Theodore's relationship. The line seems pitched to be decisively ironic, but Doubleday does such an efficient of making it avoid triteness. We don’t know Isabella. It’s not important to the film that we do, and yet with the pathetic earnestness of that line-reading she reveals of herself, of her loneliness and of her desire to be needed. It’s the sort of excellent ability for a decidedly sideline character to work at making an illusory character more indelible than you’d imagine. When she leaves the film on her final line, I'll always love you guys, I'm disinclined to roll my eyes and just heave a sigh at how sad this woman's life must be that even being a vessel in a relationship like this could provide her with some possibility of joy.

When Her ends it’s Theodore’s melancholy and his shred sadness with Amy which we are left with, mostly. But Isabella’s brief turn is no less moving for its slightness.


Candice Frederick said...

hmmm interesting choice. i did kinda forget about her. but she was in one of my favorite scenes in the movie, which i apparently LOVED more than you. :)

Andrew K. said...

candice her is something of a solid B film for me. i like, and really like many parts of it and am impressed with it on the whole i just don't quite love it completely. (but the scene in its sad awkwardness is indeed, a gem.)