Thursday, November 20, 2008

Anne Bancroft, The Turning Point

Anne Bancroft is undoubtedly one of the best actresses we have lost in the last couple of years. Thaaaa… this is Mrs. Robinson we are talking about! Moving to this particular performance, it’s always a pleasure for me to see 2 leading actresses nominated for the same film. It’s probably the fact that it doesn’t happen too often. Yet, in most cases, it’s usually only one of them who’s the real leading of the film; here, it’s NOT Bancroft. Although she gets her individual scenes, the film is not really about her. Though not in the spotlight, she IS talked about a lot, making her character crucial to the film.

approximately 26 minutes and 41 seconds
23% of the film
The Turning Point
When her daughter joins a ballet company, a former dancer (MacLaine) is forced to confront her long-ago decision to give up the stage to have a family.

This is one of the few films about ballet I have seen. If it wouldn’t have been for the Oscar connected to it, I might not have bothered. I admit I’m no fan of ballet. Though it has an abundance of dance sequences, the story remains focused on the characters. And it’s a nice story although sometimes interpreted too literally. Shirley MacLaine is the ex ballerina now mother of 3 children. Anne Bancroft is still a ballerina but with no real personal life and a fading career. Shirley envies Anne’s career and success and Anne would have wanted to have a family like Shirley’s. We hear this from their mouths in the first 15 minutes.
I liked the leading performances and it was a nice comeback for Shirley MacLaine. The dancing is nice and it’s always a treat to see Baryshnikov dancing or just… sitting there in tight pants :) Nice ending, decent direction and a bit of a funny moment, plus the crucial catfight at the end. It’s also good to remember that The Turning Point holds the negative record for most Oscar nominations without a single win – 11, tied with The Color Purple (1985).
Anne Bancroft as Emma Jacklin
Anne plays Emma Jacklin, a famous ballerina now in her 40’s, trying to hold together her fading career as not getting any younger. The film is kind of a trip for her, as she gradually admits out loud that she’s too old for this business. It’s not an easy thing for her to admit, as she doesn’t really have anything else in her life to look up to except the stage. Seeing Deedee again (20 years ago they were both auditioning for Anna Karenina, Deedee got pregnant, Emma won the role) the past comes to life.
There’s a line from Emma when she sees Deedee’s family, her grownup children: They don’t know how fast time goes, do they?! It’s delivered perfectly by Bancroft, marking a moment of truth that she’ll have to deal with from now on: she’s not young anymore, not even close.
And so, Emma is confronted with what she doesn’t have: a husband, a family, a home. She lives a single life and Bancroft captures that wisely, in a mature way. We don’t really pity Emma, but we understand her regrets. It’s a movie filled with what if s and it’s important not to make it (too) cheesy. The reencounter of the two women is done in a dearly loving way, although Deedee seems to be a bit aggressive even from the start. She would have probably wanted Emma’s life more than the other way around.
We see Emma repeating for a new show, but it’s not working out well and she’s not afraid to say what’s on her mind. The truth, unfortunately for her, is quite different: the choreographer doesn’t want her in his show, but had a problem saying it. Though tough on the outside, in a bit of a vulnerable moment Emma unravels her frailty; Bancroft doesn’t give us much, just enough to know that she’s suffering.
And another bad news follows, as she won’t be dancing Giselle at this year’s ballet gala. It sounds a bit like the nail in the coffin that’s her career.
And the man whose mistress she has been for the past 15 years is deciding they should stop seeing each other. It’s a restrained scene with a subtle performance by Bancroft. He asked her to marry him many times years ago but she said no and now when Emma would’ve accepted, he stopped being interested or maybe his pride has had enough hits already. Again, there’s nothing flashy in Bancroft’s performance, but that wouldn’t have fitted the character. Let’s not forget Emma was a career oriented tough woman and showing emotion outside the stage is not that simple for her.
After the big gala, Emma is finally thrown under the bus – to be more exact: the head of the company tells her it’s time to move to directing a ballet, staging it and not dancing in it. It was an important night for her and the news seems now to be both unexpected and inappropriate.

What follows next is movie history :) It’s the confrontation between Deedee and Emma. Deedee (I’ll tell more when I’ll do MacLaine’s performance) has big unresolved issues with Emma and in the tension of that evening a fight seems natural.
There were a lot of things untold in the past and they’re all coming to light now, mostly because of Deedee’s frustration of not having the career she wanted. Bancroft lives up to the challenge, as this is both a screaming game but also a physical dispute. This catfight is famous, worthy and perfectly integrated in the storyline.
Yet it ends up well and the two realize that in essence they’re good friends and that you cannot bring up the past, just maybe try to look towards the future.

Bancroft gives a good portrayal of a tough woman who’s losing the most important things in her life: her career and the applauses she was used to. It’s mostly a restrained performance but very effective to the film and Emma is probably the most interesting character. There’s something royal about her and Bancroft does an excellent job to bring that to the light the aristocratic, precious feel of the character. However, if we would’ve seen Bancroft doing some real dancing, my rating would have been much higher (I know, I know, she’s just an actress but still). Also, the fact that Audrey Hepburn (who was somewhat retired back then) almost played Emma makes me sigh a bit thinking on what a rear treat we’ve missed. But nothing bad about Bancroft’s portrayal, so she gets some very well deserved .

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