Monday, May 12, 2008

Addicts 2007: Actress in a Leading Role

Best Actress in a Leading Role

Julie Christie
Away From Her

Alzheimers is a terribly sad fate for a person, and watching the breakdown of Grant and Fiona's relationship in the touching but undeniably troubled Away From Her, is itself fairly devastating. It's interesting though that, for me, the entirety of the film's engulfing sense of loss is instigated (without ever appearing so) from the incredible Julie Christie. We are often encouraged to walk in the shoes of the weary, and annoyingly overwrought Gordon Pinsent. A man who has lost something. But Christie makes Fiona much more accessible as a victim, her mental deterioration mirroring Pinsent's physical longing, and thus her punishment seems much more ingrained and natural. She doesn't seem affected, losing none of the grace, humour, charm; yet appears so irredeemably distant. Without context. Without recognition. A rich and painful portrayal.

Marion Cotillard
La Vie En Rose

In more than one way Cotillard's performance is not of the ilk that I tend to admire. Incredibly theatrical (especially in terms of her gestures and mannerisms) one can be tempted to believe that she lacks depth, restraint, understanding of what is needed to make Piaf a genuine character. But for what Olivier Dahan's La Vie En Rose so baldly displays as a fast-paced sporadic tribute to the legendary powerhouse (not dissimilar to the pace and style of All That Jazz by the way), Marion Cotillard can read everything the film wants to achieve and more. I had difficulty separating whether it's more her triumph than Dahan's that together, her performance and the film seem so synchronised. It's a success for both, but the editing -- a major feature of the film -- has to have festered gladly on Cotillard's showy snippets of Piaf. Almost Minelli-like, she wades in and out of every scene just as La Vie En Rose meanders so adventurously and recklessly in and out of Piaf's life. Amazing.

Angelina Jolie
A Mighty Heart

As a woman chasing any trace of her kidnapped husband it isn't a feat that Jolie has us on Marianne's side. When we think of grieving widows, or housewives waiting, hoping, for their husbands to come home from war, it's easy to expect and see the desperate wreck. But we don't often see them as an active force in proceedings, and that might be why Jolie is so surprisingly effective as the core of A Mighty Heart. She is by no means better than the film, but without a shadow of a doubt understands every bit of the episode, carrying off her role with the passion of a heroine. And when I say 'heroine', I don't mean someone who's content to put a brave face on things, but someone keen to understand as much of the political situation as she can in order to bring her fella home. She wants it more than we do, and it shows. Jolie has so much impact as a personality than she ever has as a figure of pity; despite pregnancy, false hope, loss, the raw power she evokes is that of our superwoman beaten. Beaten admirably, but heartbreakingly beaten nonetheless.

Sienna Miller

I actually have trouble acknowledging that I value Sienna Miller's dogged, neurotic performance in Interview, a film I didn't care for, above Laura Linney, Anamaria Marinca, and the tireless Ellen Page. But this is the girl I wanted here most, and in all honesty, it's because I saw more of myself in her than I did the others. Judging and interpreting films is ultimately an altogether personal experience, and consequently Miller, whose Katya is restricted despite her power and independence; naive, shallow, but capable of duping even the most psychologically-apt of counterparts, feels more close-to-home and complex than the others. Outwardly confident and superior, inwardly self-conscious and needy, she teases, provokes, and ends up feeling like the real throwaway victim of a piece that doesn't know enough about what it wants to say, but crafts two characters that has enough to keep you entertained for the vast majority of its modest running time. Sienna can hack it with the best of them.

Tang Wei
Lust, Caution

Like Lust, Caution itself Tang Wei's role is a concealing contradiction. Complete with all the makings of the schoolgirl who has an affair with a high-school professor, she is a foxy female that veers far from the standard path through adolescence, and her double-role in this luscious sex-fest skates the boundary between girl and woman extremely finely. A wannabe-rebel and seductive spy she undergoes a transformation but retains that naive, ingestant childishness that feeds her need to mean something to someone. To matter. And when imposed upon by everybody Wei is able to let the resillience and individuality of Mai Tai Tai shine through. Her performance is assured, magnetic, mature, and often reminded me of Greer Garson, whose modesty was surely unrivalled, but given a run for its money by Wei, who like Garson, never really gives any indication that she knows how beautiful, clever, and charismatic she is, although there's an inkling that amidst it all the girl probably does.

Winner: Tang Wei, Lust Caution
Runner Up:
Julie Christie, Away From Her

Sad To Exclude: The aforementioned ladies: Anamaria Marinca, Ellen Page, and the excellent Laura Linney, who I'd say is probably 6th, as she has a much weaker written character than the others.

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