Saturday, June 20, 2009

Julie Andrews, in The Sound of Music approximately 79 minutes and 31 seconds
49.1% of the film

The film

A woman leaves an Austrian convent to become a governess to the 7 children of a Naval officer widower.
You can find my short review of the film just by clicking HERE.

I think it’s the most popular musical of all times. I’m addicted to the soundtrack and the technical part is great, but the film does have its flaws. Yet, it’s highly enjoyable and putts its money on the right person: Julie Andrews.

Julie Andrews as Maria

I admire a comedy actress’ capacity of ignoring the embarrassment of a scene and play it like it’s the most obvious & fun thing that has ever happened. This is the case with Julie Andrews for the most of the film. She’s such a great sport and talented actress than she can take an objectively absurd scene (do re mi or my favourite things) and make it into a wonderful and magical musical moment. Her lack of self-consciousness in the role is essential to the film’s success.

A big question pops up when discussing a musical performance: do you also count in the singing? I can’t make up my mind about it; but one thing is certain: Julie’s fabulous voice does influence my judging. But not blindly. I think it’s crucial in such cases to analyze the acting that’s going on while singing. Do the face and the body language express what the words of the song are supposed to? In Julie’s case, it’s a big yes. The best moments of her performance are when she’s singing, because she’s not just moving her lips, but also acting.

How about the rest of the performance? It’s mostly great, especially the comedy of it. Julie has a very expressive face and she looks beautiful, which always helps. Her beauty is just the right type to pull off the innocence of Maria. We have to believe that Maria is young; and a nun; and a virgin. :) All of this works out perfectly. The pure comedy scenes (one or two, not that many) are played with a great sense of comedy timing. The solid direction also helps and Julie does know how to put a smile on a face. No wonder that Von Trap stiff was charmed.

Talk about charming and romance: it’s all there. Julie makes Maria so sweet and likeable that the Captain is not the only one falling for it. We’re in it, even though the love story is so predictable. Julie’s natural charisma is too obvious to be ignored. Just like in Julie Christie’s case (Darling), the beauty and the attractiveness of the actress help complete the performance, do justice to the character and sell the film. It’s not a politically correct thing to say, but sometimes looks DO increase the quality of the performance itself.

The lacking in this performance must come from the limitations of the screenplay. There is no real big emotional moment or something that dramatic that would make me go: oh, so she can do that too. I’m not saying it’s a must have and I’m being too demanding; it’s just something I often search. Yes, she does get emotional scenes: and Julie plays them beautifully, capturing the hesitation of the nun falling in love (with the wrong man). And it’s a comedic performance so I get it that it must be judged differently. But still. And it’s the screenplay too that betrays her leading actressness towards the end, by including the Nazi plotline and putting Julie in the background of the film, with a reassuring presence, but not the dramatic punch/exit that we need from a leading actress at the end of a film.

Julie Andrews is a true blessing for The Sound of Music. The movie would probably be totally ignorable without her charm, excellent voice and comedy timing. It’s an iconic performance that’s either taken for granted or named as one of the best musical performances ever. I guess I’m somewhere in the middle, gravitating towards the greatness of it. It’s a spectacular performance, but at the end of the film I felt like I received a lot from Julie, but not everything. The film is not a vehicle for an actress and it shows. They could’ve given her even a bit more to do. I give Julie . I guess she would’ve won the Oscar had she not won it already the year before.


Gustavo said...

A performance that is charming without being, say, "dilluted" in saccharine. Much more interesting than her Oscar-winning effort.

Alex in Movieland said...

I haven's seen Mary Poppins in a while, so I can't really comment on that. :) from what I've heard, 64 had a pretty weak challenge.

Bancroft (the main competitor) already had the Oscar and Pumpkin Eater was indie & british. Loren had comedy & already the Oscar. Debbie R had a musical and Kim Stanley... I've seen Seance on a wet afternoon and I'd say it's way too edgy for the academy members.