Sunday, August 01, 2010

Jill Clayburgh, in An Unmarried Woman
approximately 106 minutes and 9 seconds
82.2% of the film






The film

A mature woman from Manhattan's Upper East Side struggles to deal with her new identity and her sexuality after her husband leaves her for a younger woman.

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

I admire the film more than I like it. While I consider it to be a road-opener, it’s not really a pleasant sit-through for me. The second part didn’t catch my interest, but I will always admit it’s a stylish film.





Jill Clayburgh as Erica

I’ve realized a couple of days ago that Jill Clayburgh’s performance is this film has got to be the most iconic of the 5 nominees and one of the most recognizable (at least for American audiences) of the 1970s. I don’t know if it’s the whole independent woman thing or just her silly dance at the beginning of the film, but many consider this to be a great acting achievement and a step in changing the image of the modern woman. I agree, more or less.


Jill plays Erica, a woman in her late 30s, living a great life: she has wonderful friends, a smart teenage daughter, a fancy job at the gallery, a loving husband, a great sexlife and lots of money. But then the husband dumps her for a younger woman and Erica has to try to find a new balance in her life. It’s definitely a good role and the film is all about her character (notice the screentime). Mazursky enjoyed doing fresh, cool movies (Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice) and the role fits the description.

There is almost nothing wrong with Jill’s performance and she’s actually quite charming in the beginning, with the dance scene settling that aspect from the start. I’ve found just one big flaw: the look on her face after throwing up in the separation scene, I just didn’t buy it and found it unnecessarily theatrical. But other than that, she’s believable in the role and seems like a right match for the film.


BUT, what makes it a great performance? Because many look at it that way. I will say it upfront that I don’t find it great or wonderful, but I do think it’s good and effective with a couple of highlight. The best short moments are when she’s playing silly and joking around a bit, because Jill is good with the relaxing, fun part and she does have a great smile.

Getting to the big scenes, the psychiatrist ones might be the best. Mazursky loves this type of scenes and Erica gets to talk a lot about herself, smile and cry and Jill really does a nice job playing it cool and making it look easy and natural. Her anger moments are always believable and she does fit the classy requirements of the character. But what is it that stops it from being great for me? Probably the fact that I really didn’t care about the character, about what happens to her, especially in the second half. I didn’t have any emotional connection with her, even though I understood the character. I think that is the problem, and as usual it’s just my subjective take.


Jill gets a full character and it’s the breakthrough performance anyone would dream of. Her acting seems right for the film, she has some good scenes with great acting instinct, but I didn’t love the performance. Just like I feel about the film, I respect the performance more that really liking it. No question it’s a good one and I understand why many find it great. I didn’t fully connect. It’s an honest .

11 comments:

joe burns said...

I would give her a five, but I know what you mean when you say a performance you more respect then love.

Anonymous said...

I am very curious on your final ranking, sir. Wonderful review.

hey deanie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Malcolm said...

When I was reading, I thought you would go with a 4.

Alex in Movieland said...

wow, I didn't know Jane Fonda was in talks for this role... and I actually don't believe she would've been right for the part. She's too much Alpha :)

Tom said...

is this the one where she says "Balls, said the Queen"?

Alex in Movieland said...

yes, I think she says that in the mirror at one point

Anonymous said...

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Alex in Movieland said...

geeee, Anonymous, you're welcome :)

Anonymous said...

Remembering seeing this a while ago, and thinking why didn't she have a better career? Btw, she was so beautiful, kind of like a more attractive Diane Keaton...

Brad M.

Alex in Movieland said...

I would really like to see Starting Over, but I just can't find it.