Monday, August 31, 2009

Lana Turner, in Peyton Place
approximately 41 minutes and 45 seconds
26.7% of the film

The film

Coming-of-age story set in a small New England town whose peaceful facade hides love and passion, scandal and hypocrisy.

You can find my short review of the film just by clicking HERE.

It’s a 2 and a half hour soap opera that may or may not suit your taste. Peyton Place is a collective effort, with some storylines better than others. I thought it was ok at times, but never great or fascinating.

Lana Turner as Constance ‘Connie’ MacKenzie

Lana Turner is probably best known as one of Hollywood’s most fascinating blondes and a sex symbol especially in the late 40s. Those were her glory days, but she did get to do a couple of good movies by the end of the 50s, roles that probably shaped her image as a serious actress. The first one: Peyton Place; the second one: Imitation of Life – she looks good in both, but her beauty is not what defines these two performances.

The key word for her Peyton Place performance is frigid. She might look like a voluptuous diva, but Constance, her character, has learned her lesson about love and is not willing to make the same mistake twice or let her daughter repeat history. I’ve previously said on the other blog that this is a one-note performance. I stand by it almost entirely; it’s not a critique, but an observation.

Even though her character changes towards the end, becoming more honest with herself and with her daughter (admitting the mistress status she’d had in the past) and opening up to a new love interest, the change only brings a nuance, as there’s no big shift in the character. She’s just the same cold person she was in the beginning, only a bit nicer. That’s believable and true to the character, and I admire that, but it doesn’t offer that many acting opportunities for Lana to confront.

A problem with this role is the screentime; I can handle the minutes, but the 26.7% of the film she’s on screen is so not enough for a Best Actress nominee (and for a couple of scenes, she’s just standing in the background). It hurts my perspective on the performance when I see Hope Lange (supporting actress nominee) stealing half of the film from her and getting the most screentime & buzz in the last 30 minutes. Another damaging factor to Lana’s performance is the lack of credibility that the love story has. Her screen partner has no charisma, but possesses the most annoying voice ever and the screenwriter isn’t very interested in digging deep.

So the idea is that Lana has few to work with. She doesn’t have the screentime she deserves, the focus is on her character’s daughter and on some rape victim, her screen partner is bleah and she’s supposed to look frigid & constipated for most of the film. The only things she gets are one sexy red dress and an out-of-line crying scene in the courtroom. But you know what: I didn’t dislike her! Her performance felt mature & adequate and the frigid look was dead-on believable.

When she throws a slap once or twice I’m in ecstasy and I strangely felt like she understood the character. The courtroom scene is the only time she overplays it a bit, but other than that I felt she did it all just right. The most emotional moment to me was when she tries to speak to her daughter in the bar, just before the trial and gets unfairly rejected; I felt sorry for her, in a very Mildred Pierce way. But it’s not the only one.

It’s not much of a role, but I admire Lana’s effort when she goes for a subtle theatrical. She’s not the type that would go for subtle, so I can see it kills her. She lets it all out in a big crying scene at the end, but I accepted her need of an Oscar moment. I am subjectively captivated by her acting and I admire her understanding of the character. It’s a performance one could laugh at, it all depends on how you look at it. To me, it’s old acting style done well. I would immediately go for 2 stars, comparing it to all the profiles done in over a year. But because it felt right to me, I’m adding a 0.5, so it is. I’m already feeling ashamed for such a high rating. :)


Encore Entertainment said...

Don't feel bad about the three. I'm kind of happy she got it. I definitely understand what you mean about the lack of character; but I still liked her.

A french lector said...

I agree with all you (and Encore Enternainment) say. A very clever critic, really.
What's next ? Magnani or Kerr ?

Alex in Movieland said...

I usually don't announce it in advance. it's magnani