Since Brien Larson is going to win her first Acadamy Award this Sunday, it was about time to review the Best Actress line-up as I usually do. It's the first time I post a write-up in english (not my first language), I'm sure I'm not completely prepared to it, but I'd like to try for fun. Let's be indulgent!
Joy is a watchable film, but I can't help saying it's a bad one. Once again David O. Russell seems not to have a very sense of organization, because his new film is poorly built and full of unnecessary things – as happened with American Hustle before. Let me point out some of the bad things I found: a) the narration adds nothing to the film; b) Joy's family seems to have come out from a Ben Stiller movie; c) the editing is so poor that things just happened suddenly and we don't understand some of the character's attitude; d) the comic tone that the film has in the first half is very forced and really didn't work for me.
I must say I didn't get the miscasting thing some have pointed out. Jennifer Lawrence can be too beautiful and young to be a housewife close to a nervous breakdown, but I mean, this is actresses are for. I think she made a brave choice taking the role, and honestly, her casting is the smallest problem with the film. Actually it's quite the opposite, since she brought her heart and soul to make Joy's story inspiring and honest. Even in the most ridiculous and non-sense scenes, she seems passionate with what the film's about. Like in the flashback that shows us her first meeting with her ex-husband. That seems very unnecessary to the whole story, but Lawrence didn't lose the opportunity and made a very beautiful, graceful and even funny scene. Her acting here is not subtle as her work in Winter's Bone, not even as over-the-top as her Rosalyn Rosenfeld in American Hustle. This shows that Lawrence knows to choose the right approach to her characters, because she acts as Joy exactly as it's supposed to be. Unfortunately, I still think Lawrence wasn't (and wouldn't be) able to overcome all the wrong things that happens in Joy from the beginning to the end. The film just didn't sell us a very credible character and the editing didn't help either, but to Lawrence credit, she delivered a very honest portrayal when she could be just affected as was her director.
Room is definitely all about Jack. Even when the movie starts to focus on some aspects of Joy Newsome, we are overwhelmed by Jack's omnipresence. Certainly Jacob Tremblay's performance helped very much to it, but the script clearly benefited him. The whole creation of the personality of a child who lived 5 years in a shed, without knowing that there were much more than that, can be flawed, but it's extremely fascinating. There's no way not to fall in love with Jack.
Brie Larson was the one who got the hardest task. Her character is not very likeable and in the second half of the film, the script failed to develop her depression properly. It was on Larson's back to convey those emotions with the thin material that was given to her. The interview scene (which I think could've been better done) was a pivotal moment in her performance. It was the moment when Joy's unhappiness was explained, but unfortunately it was my least favorite part of her performance. Thankfully from the next scene on her performance grew immensely. When she attempted to commit suicide she just broke my heart. She disappeared from the movie for 20 minutes, but it was the part that her presence was more felt. When she came back home, she was just marvelous in the whole sequence she apologized to her son. And the last scene just showed me that Tremblay's performance wouldn't be so awesome if Larson wasn't so engaged and passionate about this project. The amazing chemistry between them made the movie.
To finish, it's fair to say that her Oscar scenes - the reencounter with Jack in the police car and the confrontation with her mother - were very special moments in her performance. The former because she showed the agony she passed while Jack's was out, and the later because it could have been that type of 'heartless' Oscar scene the academy loves, but Larson made it very real and painful. She gave the best performance she could give, I briefly thought about giving her a low score, but I just can't. Room is a better film because of her.
For its first 30 minutes Brooklyn is very shaky and kind of silly, but then Emory Cohen appears like a shining light and everything becomes spectacular. Not that Saoirse Ronan wasn't able to carry the whole film alone, it's just that the romance between Eilis and Tony is bigger than the film itself. So much so that when Eilis went back to Irish, the movie came back being less interesting.
Watching Brooklyn I felt like I had seen this type of movie so many times, and I really thank to the leading actors that the film was worth-watching. The main romance saved it from being just a picture about an Irish Girl in America with those random scenes in the first third. The chemistry between Ronan and Cohen is something really special and made the last scene being totally heartbreaking. But Ronan is great in other moments too, creating believable relations with all characters, even those whom were not well developed.
Her deliveries sometimes were a bit monotone, but it doesn't mean it was annoying, quite the contrary, her voice and accent are surprisingly pleasant and she meant every word she said. The last 30 minutes of the film showed us a more mature Eilis and it reflected in Ronan's work, she was much more imposed and stronger. Mostly in the scene she knew a young Irish girl going to New York and gave her some advices. Ronan showed me that she was capable of giving an romantic, dramatic, and even funny study of character that is really overwhelming. Truly a winning performance.
It surprised me very much how 45 Years has been underrated over this Oscar season. It rarely appears in people’s Top 10 Best films of 2015, though I think it clearly deserved to. Thankfully Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtney’s performances are being praised and awarded (Courtenay to a lesser extent unfortunately).
Berlin Film Festival did a brilliant choice to award both of them, because I think if only one of them had won, it would be unfair to the other. I can’t separate these performances, they needed each other to work the way they did. So it’s really depressing Courtenay wasn't nominated while all the Best Actors nominees weren’t as good as he was. Rampling is an actress I always appreciated and thought deserved recognition. Good she received her first Oscar nomination for a performance I consider her finest hour.
45 Years is that type of film where the silence says much more than words. And I think it’s on the silence that the films brilliance relies, because Geoff Mercer spent his whole marriage in silence about his loving memories of Katya. And, despite thinking the actors are fantastic regarding dialogues and monologues, it’s in the quiet moments they built the agony of passing through that difficult situation.
There are many heartbreaking moments in Charlotte’s performance, but the one which move me the most was when Kate was listening to Geoff speech and couldn't cry as she was supposed to. All the things that came in Kate’s mind were clear in Rampling’s eyes.
Her performance could be really depressing, but she brought a subtle joy to her part amazingly, as did Tom Courtenay. But they never lost that haunting atmosphere of regret and confusion that the film has. And I think that’s why I loved these performances so much, they made a sad story easy to go through, even if we can’t help having our hearts broken.
(Rooney Mara as Therese Belivet in Carol, ★ ★ ★ ★ ★)
When I first saw Carol I didn't find the chemistry between Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara particularly strong. I discovered plenty of people felt the same way as I did, so I was not alone. After a second re-watch, I'm on a much more positive vibe about it.
I am really fond of Todd Haynes as a director. I appreciate the new things he brought to movies. Safe is a different and modern view at depression that's aging tremendously well. I'm not There is an innovative and untouchable biopic. Far from Heaven is a emulation of a fifty melodrama, but treating themes that wasn't very discussed at the time. And Carol went in a similar way to Far from Heaven. Carol seems to have been written to Todd Haynes adapt it someday, it is certainly his territory. And his direction is almost perfect. In every scene, the background says much more than we can superficially see and the close-ups in the lead actresses’ faces are so beautifully done that clearly helped their performances.
I always like an actor more when its voice is great, and Cate Blanchett almost androgynous voice is simply delicious. Also she is physically a perfect choice for Carol. It's undeniable how beautiful she was in this film and how stunning her costumes fitted her. Rooney Mara is amazingly cast as Therese and her similarity to Audrey Hepburn here moved me very much. They're women easy to fall in love with.
But Carol is for those who really appreciate romantic movies in a more detailed aspect. We don't see the fire that embraces couples like Cindy and Dean from Blue Valentine, or Adele and Emma from Blue is the Warmest Color. It can't even be compared to the explosive relationship between Jack Twist and Ennis Del Mar. I can't think of a film that took a more subtle approach to a romantic relationship than Carol. Actually the film can be pretty melodramatic at some points, but the romance was really light-handed.
Rooney Mara took seriously the delicate vibe of her film and gave a performance that's a masterpiece of subtlety. None of her facial expressions or deliveries was gratuitous, she depicted every side of Therese minutely leaving nothing to be desired. She really should have been nominated over Jennifer Lawrence, so we could have the strongest Best Actress line-up in 20 years.
I read on the internet that some people are getting tired of Cate Blanchett being nominated everytime she went on a big project. But I actually think this is her best performance to be nominated in this category. I think her Carol worked as a romance because she was the one who brought the erotism to the film. While Rooney just needed to smile to make someone to fall for her, Blanchett went on a deeply sexy approach to make her character even more attractive. She even reminds me of Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity. But she chose a very nifty way to do that, sounding seductive and maternal at the same time and transferred Carol's security and experiences through her lines marvelously.
Something that also surprised was the witty way she found to show Carol was jealous of Therese. Carol really was a woman that had the guts to be clear about what she wanted and Blanchett is the type of actress who was made to play strong women like her. What's good is that she knew how to balance these brave characteristics with her vulnerability in the best way a actress can do. Carol is a character who needed a firm approach and Blanchett was up to the task and thankfully never went over-the-top.
The first time I saw this movie I had mixed feelings on the scene Carol gave up fighting for her child, but now I cannot think of a better way to deliver those lines. Even if I think the whole subplot with her husband is a weak link in the film, it was necessary to create Carol's personality and Blanchett didn't waste the opportunity to make it complementary to her performance.
Carol's last scene could make any film to feel completely jealous. It ended making you wanting to know what happened next, waiting for more, without being inconclusive. Only great movies with great performances could end this way.