It’s not a great film, I didn’t find anything that special about it. But at the same time, its structure is very comforting and familiar in a good way. The ending is hard to believe, but has a positive feeling to it that makes it quite enjoyable.
Sophisticated, unique women give unusual, fascinating yet complicated performances. I have a strange perspective on Jessica Lange’s acting in general, because I think she’s one of the most uniquely strange actresses of the past decades. There’s always something about her that shouts sexuality, sensuality, diva, fun, flirty – at least that’s how I’ve always perceived her. Then there’s the gorgeous face and the very recognizable delicious voice. However, in the end, I somehow like/love her more as the person I imagine her to be than the actual performances she’s giving. Maybe I prefer my actresses to be more down to earth or real.
Jessica Lange plays Carly Marshall, a mentally fragile army wife of the 60s, mother of two, who lives her life at extremes, alternating between a very sexual, flirtatious persona and the guilt that comes from her (I suspect) bipolar disorder. For most of the film, she kind of personifies a Marilyn Monroe and gets lots in the man-devouring spirit of her idol, which creates lots of trouble, almost costing her husband’s life.
The most in-your-face characteristic of the performance is the sensuality, a word which comes as an understatement. Jessica Lange breathes sex in this film, which is both a plus and a minus for the performance. The good side is that it makes Carly a fascinating character to look at. When she’s dancing by herself succeeding in grabbing everyone’s attention she is gorgeous, magic and, like a character approximately says, everything a woman should be about.
But while I appreciate Jessica’s ability of giving the men exactly what they wanna see, I still feel like the performance ends up looking a bit fake and overdramatic at times. Yes, Carly is a troubled woman and a diva of her own, but this Marilyn-sex kitten play stops me from connecting with the character sometimes. Is Jessica playing the sex card too hard and too often or is she just completely devoted to what Carly imagines herself to be? I don’t know the answer, but whatever it is it’s pushing me away from loving the character.
Thankfully, we do see the vulnerable side of Carly. We can assume that her emotional frailty is caused by her impression of failure as a human being. She cannot get used to the idea that she’s just a mother and a wife and not some Hollywood glamour-puss and she keeps looking in the past to what might’ve been. It’s clear as daylight that this is an unfulfilled woman who tries to forget her failed & empty life by feeding herself with the attention of men. It’s typical Blanche DuBois syndrome that Jessica acts well and she puts a lot of care in underlining the vulnerable human side of Carly, who’s not just a Marilyn copycat.
The performance is complicated. Jessica might seem perfect for the role, but her dreamy, sensual persona combined with Carly’s diva-like and sexuality creates too much of sex kitten when maybe it needed even more of a human side. I like it for the most part, but that’s also because I get charmed by the physicality of it. While I don’t love it, it’s a performance I appreciate more and more. So, to me it looks like a deserving .