Saturday, December 11, 2010

Elizabeth Taylor, in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
approximately 78 minutes and 46 seconds
61% of the film

The film

The film focuses on the self-destructive relationship of history professor George and his hard-drinking wife Martha, as they invite a younger couple over for drinks.

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

I was quite young when I first saw it and didn’t know what to expect from it. To me, it’s one of those moments: Remember where you were the first time you saw Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Yes, I do, definitely; because such performances you never forget and the film will always be a tribute/proof of what great acting does to a film.

Elizabeth Taylor as Martha

What was Liz thinking when she accepted/went for this role? It was a role like none other attempted by her and definitely not something a box office star and glamour puss would easily feel comfortable doing. It was the height of her career and strangely enough nothing merely interesting came after it. Rarely does a film like this have such a strong impact on someone’s career, taking her from the level of good actress to one of the most talented performers of the century.

Liz plays Martha, the hard-drinking, loud-mouthed wife of a college professor. She is selfish, mean, exploitive, and sometimes vulgar but unexpectedly likeable. She goes from one emotion to another during one bumpy night which will definitely change her marriage dynamic. It’s a fascinating, interesting, rich character, a challenge for any great actress willing to take the chance and go all the way, without any vanity.

The performance itself is quite flawless. Though young at age, you can feel the acting experience: she knows where the camera is and, with the help of great direction and camera work, she can make the best out of any difficult close-up! There’s no hesitation in the line delivery and she perfectly shifts between the different emotions Martha goes through.

Her chemistry with Richard Burton needs no explaining and the fact that they know eachother so well can only help the performance and adds a spark of charm to the film itself. Her bitchiness is so well played, from the exaggerated laughter to the angry drunk moments and the sarcastic arrows she keeps pointing towards George.

What completes the performance to me is the human side of the character, something I’m always looking for in a performance of this calibre. Liz makes Martha so believable and heartbreakingly human. The last part only goes to prove she’s no monster indeed but a woman with many flaws and weaknesses and Liz always keeps her likeable, relatable.

We get to understand Martha and I was almost excited when, towards the end, she finally sides-up with George, admitting he was her only love and the only man who would actually be able to keep up with her. The final scenes are heartbreaking and her two monologues at the end are delivered perfectly, making for some of the best acting this category’s ever seen: so touching, so meaningful, so perfectly delivered.

My one small issue was that even with Liz’s deglam I could still feel that maybe an older actress would’ve made for a wiser casting; however, by the time the story starts moving, it all seems very much in place. Elizabeth Taylor delivers, with the help or great screenplay and steady direction, what was easily a career best for her and definitely one of the worthiest winners in Best Actress history. No other rating could do justice: .


Kayo said...

She is a force; she enlightens the screen whenever she is in it. And when she open her mouth, her presence is very volcanic. The "getting angry baby"? scene is my favorite. One of the greatest performances I have ever seen.

Twister said...

My favorite winner, probably tied with Leigh in Streetcar.

She's simply PERFECT -- exploring every facet with resonant depth and intellectual feeling. It's really a "film performance"; never overally theatrical or shrill like she could have been. She stages endlessly fascinating beats for Nichols' camera.

A perfect, deeply moving performance, in a flat-out perfect piece of cinematic art.

dinasztie said...

My favorite winner too. She's brilliant. I wouldn't have thought that she had 78 minutes of screentime. I thought it was like 65-68. I don't want to explain a lot. She's flawless.

joe burns said...

A fantastic performance, and a well-deserved win.

And great review too. What did you think of Deniss?

Alex in Movieland said...


I'm not sure if it's THE favorite winner for me, but definitely Top 3 or Top 5. Just like Twister mentioned, it's hard to say when Viv is in the game. twice.

Yes, 78 minutes... that's because the film has over 120 minutes... however the percentage might come closer to your expectations: 61%.


Mixed feelings on Dennis, mostly good. Having seen her competition (except for Hawaii), it's probably/mostly a deserved win, but it's such a complicated performance and she's definitely not afraid of taking risks... I think I liked it, but hers is not an all-time favorite win of mine.

Malcolm said...

A totally devastating force of nature from Taylor.

I have only seen few of her performances, but this is, I think, the only performance where she did have to do something great. Her other performances relied too much on her beauty.

So so great. Definitely in my Top 10 or even Top 5 Best Actress winners.