Saturday, May 09, 2009

Julie Christie, in Darling
approximately 86 minutes and 33 seconds
[it doesn’t include the photos/billboards]
71.4% of the film
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The film
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A beautiful but amoral model sleeps her way to the top of the London fashion scene at the height of the Swinging Sixties.
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You can find my short review of the film just by clicking HERE.
What a smart, sarcastic drama. A real film of the 1960s, as it lives up to the standards of the new directorial wave. Excellent direction and a sharp screenplay.
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Julie Christie as Diana Scott
It doesn’t happen that often to find a Best Actress performance that confuses me by not respecting the typology that this category implies. Julie Christie in Darling is one of them. I honestly didn't know where to put it; it’s not the question of good or bad, but of good or great. How much does being faithful to the character weights in deciding the ultimate success of a performance? A lot would be the obvious answer; but does it always make it worthy of an Oscar win?


Julie Christie’s Diana is a spoiled brat. She’s gorgeous, she’s a model, she has affairs, lies, victimizes herself and feels like the centre of the universe. However, Diana is quite likeable. Even when she’s lying or cheating there’s something innocent to that, she has a child-like quality, you cannot be angry with her. This is what also makes it a rather light drama, because the director and screenplay know how to keep it fresh & witty and how to tackle the issues of the film without making it grumpy, grim or uncool.

The casting is perfect. It really feels like Julie IS Diana. The role required childish curiosity and to have fun with it. Julie’s face is perfect for that. You sometimes feel like she’s a woman heading for maturity, but for most of the time Julie has to take the mixture of ego and immaturity and bring it to the screen in a way that actually feels believable. And it works. Though it might not seem like the biggest challenge possible, it’s not easy to be dead on and sell it.

One might have the tendency of taking for granted, considering this to be an easy role to play for the most of it. It’s here where I myself get a little bit stuck. Is this performance subtle or obvious? Obvious because her spoiled attitude is visible throughout the entire film or subtle because there’s more to Diana than meets the eye and maybe she does have honest mature feelings hidden behind this wall of superficiality. I honestly don’t have the answer (and I’m happy about that) because the screenplay refuses to go for a conventional ending or clarify the true essence of Diana.

Don’t get me wrong, Diana does have true moments of honesty. The best example is her emotional and physical nakedness in front of the mirror in the Italian palace, after having a breakdown (was that a real profound breakdown or just a spoiled woman getting bored and not receiving what she wants; who knows). But as I’ve just mentioned: all her big dramatic moments can have more than one interpretation.


It’s clear to the viewer that Julie Christie had fun doing this. And that is so good, because Diana is a character that requires you to feel very comfortable in her skin. You need to have confidence when taking such a role, so that you could pull off her self-centred perspective on life. What Julie also does it to bring energy, beauty and most importantly kindness in her eyes. Because of Julie’s charisma and genteelness, Diana doesn’t come off as a cheating slut. That’s a huge plus of Julie’s take on the performance. More so, there are moments when you root for her; not fiery, but still.

Even when she’s desperate (her crying at the end), the screenplay is so built that it’s almost the funniest part of the film. Her reasons for crying are not serious, but any other actress might have given us a dull take without a playful sense to it. What Julie does is making it funny, believable, always remembering the spoiled core of her character, what drives Diana through life and what drives her mad. Those are ambition tears of the spoiled brat she who is not getting what she wants. Delicious and very well played.


Because of some shouting scenes from the second half, we know that Julie Christie had the chops to play Diana differently, in a more high drama way. However, her decision to focus on the lighter side of her character (yet never losing emotion or the interest of the viewer) pays off making it one of the most interesting (maybe even most unusual – judging by the type of character) Best Actress wins ever. I repay her effort with .

3 comments:

Fernando Moss said...

Great piece of writing Alex...

I can agree more on all you say about this perf.

Alex in Movieland said...

thanks :)

Curtis said...

this is one of my favorite performances and a great film! thanks for dissecting it :)