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.
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: .