It’s a nice prison drama, but not really a film to love. I found it to be very moralizing, but also relaxing and easy to watch. The acting was good all around, with a strong female ensemble and I can see why some might give it credit as a road-opener.
Eleanor Parker plays Marie, a young naive woman sent to jail for being an accomplice to a robbery. She is pregnant, defenceless and the hard life in prison will manage to toughen her up and create a new Marie, cold-blooded and calculated. The role is a blast and a wonderful opportunity for any starting actress. Though she overplays it a bit at times, Eleanor Parker knows what she’s doing and she’s delivering a very memorable centre performance.
What gets to you right from the beginning is how well she plays the fear: there wasn’t a second I didn’t believe that she was this poor scared caged girl and this is also to the credit of the director, because we’re experiencing everything new just like Marie does. Considering Marie’s our guide for most of the film, she’s sensational, immediately creating a connection with the audience.
It’s worth mentioning however that the fear factor and also the desperation coming from it blocks the performance a bit at times: in her scene with her mother and maybe also in the parole hearing scene she is overacting it and pushing it too far. As a viewer I didn’t mind, but had she toned it down a bit, like she does towards the end, she would’ve perfectly hit the right-right notes. Of course, one might say she was just creating a character arc, which brings me to the small controversy on this performance.
Some have said the change in the character’s attitude is too sudden and it feels a bit forced. Marie goes too fast from innocence to future-villain, but I say: blame it on the screenplay for not suggesting properly the passing of time. While I admit it could seem sudden, I’m buying it because Eleanor makes it sooo believable. I actually love what she does with the character towards the end, the wittiness that Marie gets, the fact that she IS becoming a woman, a tough one of which I would’ve liked to see more.
Yet, it’s worth mentioning and underlining that she always keeps the humanity of the character, even to the last second of the film. The vulnerability is why we sympathized with Marie in the first place and Eleanor never fully loses that. She’s so constantly good throughout (minus those small slips mentioned) that it would be too challenging to pick one favorite scene. But of course, the scene with the cutting of the hair is iconic and fabulously played.
The performance is overlooked, even though I suspect it did gain more fans in recent years. It is a very solid performance from a talented young actress and while this is an ensemble film, it’s Eleanor who’s doing all the heavy acting. Small elements stop me from giving it a 5, even though I’ve considered it. I’m going with a very strong, deserving .