55.2% of the film
Angelina Jolie as Christine Collins
There are two things working against Angelina in this performance. Surprisingly enough, none of them is her star persona. At least not for me, as I did get lost in the character and not went shouting: look, there’s Angie! The 1st element working against her: the direction. Now, I don’t think Eastwood cared too much about the performances or bothered to get the best of his actors (as he usually does). I don’t think he asked for enough takes; or rehearsals.
While watching the film, I felt I saw moments in the performance where I as a director would’ve said: let’s try again. I think this type of performance involving lots of crying and emotional effort requires more attention from the director and a bigger generosity towards the actor.
The second element, somewhat connected to the first one is that Angelina doesn’t always know what to do with the breaks in a performance. I’m not sure that she was always listening to what the other actor was saying (especially in her first scene with Malkovich). When she gets a bit confused or lost, she goes into the lip thing which includes a strange moving of her lips that doesn’t really make sense.
As I’ve started with the negatives, I’ll mention two more: the red (strongest red I’ve ever seen) lipstick right after her son is missing, which grabs the attention from the character’s story (cause I’m thinking like: what the hell? You’re so desperate, but you have time for makeup?!) :P There is also a problematic smile in Angelina’s last scene; I’ve heard an explanation, I’m not buying. Whoever told her it’s ok to give a big fashionable smile in that scene was dead wrong. Again: what the hell?!
Oh, and don’t get me wrong: the screenplay is quite bad and it doesn’t do her big favours, but it’s not as damaging as the elements previously mentioned.
But there is also good in the performance. Even though I didn’t like the fact that it’s all constructed as a tear-jerker, Angelina’s big crying moments are… well… some of them are excellent. When she nails it, it’s all the way and you can’t help but feel sorry for the poor woman. When I first saw the film, I felt like she was crying too much and there wasn’t a real arc to the character or a range that would show us it’s more than tears. However, upon a 2nd viewing, I noticed that I was getting a bit annoyed by the performance every time I saw Christine in a non-desperate mood (especially in the second half).
So that would probably mean that half of her crying scenes are the height of this performance. I don’t think it’s the wrong casting and I admit it’s not an easy character. The mistake of the performance, in my opinion, is that it wasn’t always done too carefully. It required more attention, more work and a greater interest for details.
It’s no secret that I enjoy tears in a performance and at least one big oscarish moment. This performance has lots of such moments, but they are not consistent in greatness. Christine seems to be defined just by her love for her son and ambition to find him. I think a good performance can overcome a bad screenplay. I also think that sometimes Angelina tried to do a better crying than to have a more natural take on what the character is expressing.
At the same time, I could probably find a scene or just a moment in this performance that might actually outshine all the other nominees (for example when she first calls the police). But it’s an uneven performance, so a missed opportunity. Angelina also does great work with her eyes, much better than those lips. For me, it’s the most debatable of the 5 nominated performances, so I won’t be surprised if I change my mind about it in a couple of year. Impossible to rate, I’m going for the middle: .