Friday, August 01, 2008

Joan Allen, The Contender

Although I’m not an American, I was like Yay for Hillary! You go girl! during her campaign for a nomination. She didn’t make it and that’s too bad, but I’m hoping for the best. While seeing The Contender for the second time, I realized that this is a way better political drama than I remembered it to be. And I was also pleased to look closer at a performance that I once considered forgettable, but perspectives certainly change…

approximately 53 minutes and 51 seconds
45.3% of the film
The Contender
Sexual secrets from a woman's past come to light as she runs for Vice President.
Hell, yeah:
A serious film, with a nice start, sharp writing & strong performances. It has great lines, a political theme, but also funny moments that make it well balanced. At points, it has a very nice West Wing feeling. Joan Allen, Jeff Bridges (great role to play), Sam Elliott and Gary Oldman (always snubbed) are highlights + a good Mariel Hemingway cameo.

Oh, no:
A supporting actress playing a brunette FBI chick; and the last 15 minutes or so, which were a bit cheesy - or maybe just not as good as the rest.

Joan Allen, as Senator Laine Hanson

The Good:
It’s great to see a dignified strong character, a lady but also very down-to-earth and fully knowing the rules of the political game. This is the type of character Laine Hanson is, going from a regular wife and mom to a strong contender with accurate, unshakeable beliefs.

I just loved how natural the character seems to act especially in the beginning of the film. It’s the small details that had me on Joan Allen’s side; and she’s probably been doing this her whole career. It’s a brief look that Laine gives her husband, nervous gestures right before seeing the president, repeating an idea in her mind.
Joan Allen shapes the character in an effortless way. It all looks so genuine, sometimes even improvised. But all done great, the feminist speeches are delivered coherently and Joan keeps the balance, showing a tranquility of the character that often seems its trademark.
Laine has been accused of having a dirty past, yet she’s not gonna talk about it as she considers it to be below her dignity. We may not agree with her tactic of dealing with things, but we keep the strong respect for the character. Joan Allen keeps it right in the middle: she’s not a spoiled bitch running from accusations, but also not a total victim, a defenseless woman.
Unfortunately, things start to get tougher for Senator Laine Hanson. Joan Allen takes smart steps in showing the difficult transition as the character is dealing with more than she wants to handle. It’s not worth it anymore.
I love the scene where we see the first tears. She has an unusual obedience that we hadn’t seen before, but she’s not entirely quitting. She may be giving up the chance for vice-presidency, but she surely won’t give up her beliefs about women’s rights, privacy & all those liberal ideas that in the end feel more important.
Her line reading is perfect and the patriotic speech towards the end: priceless.
The Bad and the Ugly:
Ok, so maybe Jeff Bridges (playing one of the best written president characters I’ve ever seen – finally someone breaking the cliché) steals the scenes in which they’re together, but there’s nothing bad about Joan’s performance.

It’s a great performance from an underrated actress that has lots of talent. Maybe she has done similar work before (Pat Nixon anyone?), but it’s a pleasure to watch her over and over again. She’s an actress with a very natural acting technique and that’s a blessing for the character. The sometimes shaky voice is a great bonus. As I said, I like dignified, respectable characters done the right way, so .

Add to Technorati Favorites