Saturday, November 21, 2009

Dorothy McGuire, in Gentleman's Agreement approximately 43 minutes and 36 seconds
37.2% of the film

The film

A reporter pretends to be Jewish in order to cover a story on anti-Semitism, and personally discovers the true depths of bigotry and hatred.

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

I did enjoy this Best Picture winner. It’s easy to watch and uses good tricks to make you want to see more, even though you can anticipate at times what will happen. Slower in the last 20 minutes, it’s still an essential movie (for its time) about discrimination.

Dorothy McGuire as Kathy Lacy

While thinking about this performance, the word coaster came into mind (I think Stinkylulu invented it), referring to a performance that received Oscar attention just because it was part of a big Best Picture movie and probably would’ve been ignored otherwise. It doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad performance, but it’s not flashy enough or… excellent enough to stand by itself. To me, Dorothy’s performance is not a full success, but I blame my subjectivity a bit. At the end of the movie, I almost didn’t remember her…

Dorothy plays Kathy, a high-class New York divorcee, but with a kind heart, who falls in love with a journalist. His investigation strategy to pretend to be Jewish becomes a burden on their relationship. Judging by screentime, the role qualifies as a leading one, but the film is mostly about Peck’s journalist. Dorothy gets a couple of good scenes, even though she’s mostly playing supportive and reassuring, until true colors pop-up.

Dorothy’s Kathy benefits from probably the most difficult dialogue of the film. She does it justice for most part, even though some of her acting choices feel strange. Like in the proposal scene; it wasn’t bad what I was seeing, just a bit too melodramatic, unexpected and not as dynamic as the scene could’ve required. That being said, Kathy is not the most exciting character; not just because she’s a device for the leading man but also because she’s a bit sleepwalking through the film. I am not seeing the energy to keep me interested, and I guess this could also be Dorothy’s fault.

It IS an intelligent performance, just not a thrilling one. To Dorothy’s credit, she manages to tell us a bit about Kathy even when the screenplay didn’t really ask for. Her presence is reassuring throughout the film, but the key moments are in 2 big fat (potential-wise) scenes. As minutes go by, the viewer is suggested to start asking himself: is Kathy anti-Semitic? We know she’s not a hateful person, and she’s open-minded, but does she consider Jewish people inferior?

The answer comes in the scene by the door, in her big speech telling her fiancĂ© that she can’t take his accusations anymore. It’s a nicely written monologue and she does admit that she was happy not being born Jewish, just as someone’s happy for being beautiful and not ugly, young and not old. It’s an honest confession and Dorothy’s acting is convincing, actually good. But I still felt like it could’ve been more.

Her best scene is unfortunately one of the film’s worst: a restaurant conversation between her and John Garfield’s character where she’s faced to admit that not taking action against discrimination is almost as bad as being the hateful person. The dialogue is too explanatory and the scenes lack subtlety, but even so Dorothy is her ok self, bringing some tears which are a nice twist.

There are a couple of good things to be said about this performance, mostly about its consistency. But truth is: even though I can understand the character from the perspective on discrimination, I still didn’t have an emotional connection with Dorothy’s performance. It might just be me, but I didn’t care; and I always need to be at least a bit emotionally moved by the acting. It’s a performance that could really work for others and in essence it’s an intelligent one, but for me: .

In a couple of days I’ll post the final conclusions for 1947.


Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

I'm a bit disappointed that you didn't like it more...but unsurprised.

Alex in Movieland said...

sorry :( I'm not doing it on purpose.

it's just how I feel about these performances when I see them. Even though I have an obligation to be objective to myself, it's still a subjective decision as seen from the outside...

The thing is... anytime I feel like giving 3 stars, I have to think: do they get close to Kate Winslet in The Reader (3 stars) or Angelina in Changeling (3 stars)? Sometimes I get overgenerous: Lana Turner (2.5), but Lana's performance touched me emotionally and that lifted her.

looking back I might've been a bit too harsh on Winslet. I wouldn't change her ranking in the Top 5 (her being 4th), but she's slowly sliding towards 4 stars, when I only gave her 3...

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

It's fine, I mean it's not like I love Dorothy or anything. Sure, she's coasting for most of the film...but I have a feeling that she's more valuable than we realise. Maybe.