It’s an alltime favorite and in my opinion one of the best Best Picture winners you’ll find out there. Some dislike it because they prefer Sunset Blvd., but I say: love them both, just like I do. All About Eve is all about celebrating: actors, theatre, women and their strong personalities and it’s a film that succeeds in all aspects.
Anne Baxter plays Eve Harrington, an apparently innocent young woman with an undying passion for theatre and especially for theatre legend Margo Channing. When the actress welcomes her into her life, Eve subtly and almost efficiently attempts to take over her man, her writer and her next role. This is the character that inspired so many similar ones in the last 6 decades: the plotting & deceiving bitch stealing the spotlight from the aging actress.
And Anne does a good job, considering the responsibility. I would actually dare to say that she might actually have the most difficult lines of the screenplay, especially in the first part of the film, when she’s pretending to be the good girl and has a long cheesy melodramatic monologue. We are not talking bad writing, but the uncomfortable, clichéd material than Anne needs to go through in order to create the impression that Eve is delivering the perfect lie.
To explain: Anne Baxter is playing Eve who goes through most of the film pretending to be someone she isn’t. Eve is not the innocent girl, but we believe that she is because Anne perfectly manages to joggle between perfectly-calculated acting and letting herself loose at times. Eve’s innocence and good intentions are all believable due to Anne’s well-thought grip on the character.
However, the innocent Eve is so confident as a character, that I found myself often bored by her especially when she’s interacting with the other characters. She is not meant to be star of the film, at least in the first half, and guess what: she’s not. Yes, there are signs of wicked Eve early on and they’re fun to watch, but for 75% of the film I almost didn’t care about Eve. Despite the title, it’s mostly the Bette Davis show and it affects my capacity of seeing Anne’s performance as more than a regular good performance lost in the handful of terrific acting that All About Eve has to deliver.
And then there’s time for her to stand out. And I’ll hand to Anne: the hotel room scene in which Eve is forced by Addison to admit the truth is dynamite (!!!) and that scene itself justifies the nomination. As the real Eve comes to light, there’s finally time for best in show. She is so precise, so mean, so natural, so straight-forward, so different and ultimately so vulnerable. The hotel moment and her diva boredom in the last scene completely turn around the performance in a good way.
But even so: to me it’s an uneven performance because I wasn’t cheering for most of the film. For the biggest part, she is overshadowed by her co-stars, but when she is finally unleashed in the last 20-30 minutes of the film, I learn to love the performance and the precision that Anne Baxter brings to the performance. And how could I rate it? The hotel moment is a 5, but the overall performance from start to finish is a very strong .