May 19, 2011

I'm Helen Sinclair!

Recently I had a conversation with a friend who had just caught up with David O. Russell's The Fighter. We mostly talked about Melissa Leo and Christian Bale and their Oscar-winning performances. He didn't like either performance that much, particularly Leo's, whom he thought was too showy and overacted. To an extent, I find myself agreeing with him since I thought Amy Adams gave the best performance in that film, but as I've mentioned before on the blog, I don't think either of those performances are overacted unnecessarily. Dickey and Alice are larger than life characters and the energy in the performances is essential to the development of those characters.

The point is, I don't think a loud performance is a bad one if the role requires the performer to be loud. And when it comes down to proving how a showy performance can be a good one, my go-to example has always been the same. A loudmouth, larger than life, scenery chewing character that is nevertheless one of the most complicated and entertaining ever put on screen: Dianne Wiest's Helen Sinclair in Bullets Over Broadway.

Wiest well understood the boundaries of this role and knew how significant her delivery was to the character and the film's success. It's a self-consciousnly campy and overplayed performance but her comic timing and consistency in carrying the running jokes along make Helen Sinclair one of the most memorable characters Woody Allen's ever written.
"- Look I haven't had a drink since new year's.
- You're talking about Chinese new years!
- Naturally! Still, that's two days!"
Not coincidentally, I think, Bullets Over Broadway is the last film by Allen to live up to the promise of his golden days. The star of every Woody Allen film is usually his own script, but I find that one problem with his more recent flicks - aside from the fact that he keeps repeating himself - is that his performers usually can't compare with the ones he used in the 70s and the 80s. Not everybody can fit into the mold of his brand of comedy, not even Larry David. His only recent film to come slightly close to the success he had in the past was Vicky Cristina Barcelona and that one had a star turn by Penelope Cruz.

Allen's new film, Midnight in Paris, opened in Cannes earlier this week and was met with acclaim. I'd be surprised if it's anywhere as good as Bullets, but I'd be pleased with a Vicky Cristina Barcelona level mini-triumph.

No comments:

Post a Comment