Friday, December 31, 2010

Vanessa Redgrave, in Morgan: A Suitable Case for Treatment

approximately 30 minutes and 55 seconds
32% of the film

The film

It tells the story of working-class artist Morgan Delt, obsessed with Karl Marx and gorillas, who tries to stop his ex-wife from remarrying.

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

To say that I’m not a fan of this film is an obvious understatement. Because I know there are many people who did enjoy it (why, oh, why), I’m not gonna start destroying it again. I just didn’t see its purpose, nor the big artistic feeling that would justify the irrational plot.

Vanessa Redgrave as Leonie Delt

It says a lot when you have a couple of comedy performances, a low-key French performance and an actress from a Czechoslovakian film competing for Best Actress in the same year. First, it might suggest that the voters in the acting branch are very open-minded. Second, it might suggest that truthfully, they hardly had anything to choose from. As I’ve recently been confronted with Morgan!, I tend to agree more with the second supposition: otherwise, I couldn’t explain it.

Vanessa plays Leonie Delt, the beautiful, free-spirited wife of a crazy painter who partly lives in a fantasy world and with a strong obsession on gorillas and socialism. As Leonie gets tired of his madness, she files for divorce but getting rid of her charming crazy husband is more difficult than you’d think, plus she’s starting to have mixed feelings about him. Her role is not a cartoonish one, but it also has no depth; the film is not about her, and she is mostly used as a plot device, as the poorly written wife/love interest.

No one can argue with Vanessa’s beauty and charm, how great she looks in all those 60s dresses, but these are the only qualities I could find to describe the performance. Oh, yes, another one: she doesn’t hurt the film more than the film hurts itself. What I hope people also can’t argue is that we know almost nothing about who this woman is. Nothing. And I agree: let’s put the blame on the screenplay, which makes the character neither deep and, sadly, neither funny! Not one damn laughter connected to her performance.

A scene where she’s screaming at her husband may look believable, and boy do we know Vanessa usually has the talent! But it’s like she just surrenders to the superficiality of the film and for the most of it she’s not even bothering. Had it been good improvising I would’ve noticed, but to me it just looks like student-play acting. For every spark of potential, of good acting, there’s another couple of minutes of spoiled, surface acting.

The big dilemma of the character – should she give him another chance or not – is completely underplayed and it feels like we have no clear arguments, no real feelings from her character. She just floats around the film, giving us something nice to look at once in a while. Had the screenplay been funny, had the performance been funny or dramatic or anything, this would’ve been a very different conversation. Unfortunately, Vanessa is a victim of the screenplay and doesn’t even bother to try to rise above.

I know some disagree, but that’s my honest take on it. To me, this is by far the most unfortunate of Vanessa’s Oscar nominated performances, I have no idea what’s doing in Oscar’s line-up and it definitely gives Elizabeth Taylor (Raintree County) a run for the title of worst performance I’ve reviewed so far. I won’t go for the 1 star, because Vanessa is Vanessa and she always has charisma, but these represent a 1 and a half for me.


joe burns said...

Ouch, fifth place for sure.

This seems like a weak year.

dinasztie said...

I liked her more. She was indeed the worst of the line-up, but something made me like her.

Alex in Movieland said...

oh, who knows what Ida Kaminska will bring... it's my most anticipated film of all 5, that's why I kept it for last. I'm ready to go from a 2 to a 4/5 :P