Reencountering her old colleagues makes her happy at first, especially seeing Emma again. Her emotions and excitement are sincere, and MacLaine does a nice job creating the adequate reactions of joy, Deedee’s nervousness but also the restraint or regret from her eyes when confronted with what she once declined.
What’s like to be you now?, Deedee asks Emma, with a drop of envy in her eyes. MacLaine portrays Deedee as a straightforward woman, and she doesn’t hesitate at one point to admit of dreaming to be in Emma’s place. The entire performance is built upon Deedee’s incapacity of leaving the past behind her. Though it’s the dominant part of the character, it’s not what totally defines her.
It wouldn’t be fair to say that Deedee does not love her children and husband. However, this encounter makes her wanna get closer to the theatre world again and an opportunity emerges when her daughter Amelia is wanted in New York to rehearse with the ballet Company. So Deedee, her daughter and her son move to NY for the summer, and though exciting at first, Deedee finds herself with lots of free time on her hands.
She reconnects with Emma, who has a lot of faith in Amelia’s capacity in becoming a star. I think she’s gonna do it for you, Deedee, Emma tells her. MacLaine does a good job in expressing without words Deedee’s mixed feelings about it: on one hand, it’s her daughter and she loves her and she’s happy for her success; on the other hand, it’s like Deedee is being replaced and her daughter’s success does nothing else but to remind her of the career that she could have had.
It’s also here in NY that Deedee has an affair. But it’s not that what troubles her; it’s her daughter’s harsh reaction, and the accuses that Amelia brings to her mother. It’s a big scene for MacLaine and she carries it nicely as she tries to ask for Amelia’s forgiveness and more of it: her understanding of loneliness.
The big ballet show at the end gives Deedee the courage she needs to accuse Emma of plotting against her and advising her to choose family over career so that she would step ahead. It’s a conflict fuelled during the entire film, which reaches its peak in the big catfight scene. It’s probably MacLaine’s best scene, as she mixes rage with frustration and gives a big speech, perfect to justify the fight, the conflict and the resent between the two women. There’s also jealousy there, not only on Emma’s career, but also on her attempt of getting Amelia on her side; You keep your God damn hands off my daughter, Deedee tells her.
Shirley MacLaine gives a natural portrayal that she’s gotten us used to during her entire career. Her face is very expressive and her strongest points are when rage, fury or envy is in the mix. Shirley’s performance as Deedee is so adequate that you almost take it for granted. I’m not sure if she could have done more. Maybe it’s the character that’s not that interesting. Though a solid performance, if put in the history of movie acting it would probably go under the radar. It’s actually a 3.5, but I’m going for , just because I gave Diane Keaton just 4, and Diane is better :)