Thursday, September 04, 2008

Laura Linney, You Can Count on Me

I knew this was gonna happen and I’m very happy it did: finding a performance that I totally dismissed years ago, but completing changing my mind now – years after. It’s part of the reason I started this archive: to clear things up in my head and give a true second chance to one performance or another. Before giving another chance to these 5 performances, I was quite sure Laura Linney is going straight for #5. Happily, that's not the case now…

approximately 67 minutes and 4 seconds
63% of the film
You Can Count on Me
A single mother's life is thrown into turmoil after her struggling, rarely-seen younger brother returns to town.
Hell, yeah:
The two leading actors; I didn’t expect Mark Ruffalo to rise to the occasion, but he did, with one or two great moments. It’s nice to see a loser done right. :) About Laura later on. There were one or two funny scenes, but let’s face it: without Linney, there wouldn’t be much to say about this film.
Oh, no:
It’s a quiet small indie film and that might be a problem if the genre is not your coup of tea. I found it to be nice, but at times too quiet indeed. I didn’t like Matthew Broderick, but I forgive him because of a shitty role. Although it has its moments, the screenplay didn’t wow me. The characters are dislikeable at the begging, even Linney’s.
Laura Linney, as Sammy Prescott

The Good:
This is a performance that just goes from a bit annoying to ok to great to FABULOUS in her last scene with her brother. It was probably built that way, trying to give some intensity to the otherwise trite ending. I’m quite sure Laura brings to the table much more than the role demanded the actress to give. She’s always a step ahead of the character, and I say that in a good way. It’s a performance that carries the character and not the other way around.
We see Sammy as the loving sister to a loser brother. It’s the first important scene of the film and although Sammy seems like a frigid fake woman, that’s not exactly true. Linney can play the neurotic Sammy, but also gives clues that this not a one-dimension hysterical woman – she’s also kind and loving and has moments of crazy honesty.

Her dynamic with Ruffalo’s Terry becomes more successful as the story takes a shape. We also find out that Sammy is not a robot; her instinct puts her in crazy situations at times, like sleeping with her married soon-to-be-a-father boss. As the film progresses, we feel like the character is finally starting to “get a life”.
I especially liked one scene where Sammy goes to the catholic priest to confess her adultery. There’s a funny line delivered perfectly by Linney, who’s using her comedic talent full speed: I don't know what the church’s official position is on fornication and adultery these days…
But Sammy is also a single mom and she faces a very difficult moment when she’s put in a way to choose between the brother she loves and the son she adores but wants to keep safe. She tries to keep them both close to her, but vanities are too high.
And we slowly get to my favorite scene, acted brilliantly by Laura Linney. It’s close to the end of the film and she has to say goodbye to her brother who’s leaving town again.
I found myself taking snapshots every 2 seconds during this 5 minutes or so scene. It was a really fascinating piece of acting. The moment where she says she feels like she’ll never see him again is heartbreaking. But he tries to calm her down telling her everything will be fine. It’s a totally different Sammy from the beginning of the film. She’s not a control freak, just a vulnerable human being. Her crying is so natural and heartwarming. These are photos from that scene - way too many :)
The Bad & the Ugly:

Nothing bad, but there were scenes where I felt like… oops, Laura, you’ll be still doing the same scene 7 years from now. Yes, this was made waaaay before The Savages, but in a couple of neurotic scene or uncomfortable ones, Sammy seemed just like Wendy from Savages.
Even the same look. But as this was first, it’s totally excusable.


Would it be fair to give an Oscar just for one scene? Of course, Julia won, but I’m talking about my Oscar, my vote, what could I base it upon? Laura Linney gives a good performance even before we get to the end of the film. But it’s obvious that my are based 90% of that 5 minutes scene. Laura knows when to make Sammy obnoxious, funny, frigid, crazy, neurotic, she has a good grip on the character and gives it much more than its potential. What happens if I’m interested only in the final part of the character’s arc which translated to a great interest in the last touches of the performance? Who knows. Yet, it’s a performance which without shocking does leave a mark.

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