Thursday, February 10, 2011

Annette Bening, in The Kids Are All Right
approximately 39 minutes and 46 seconds
39.1% of the film

The film

Two children conceived by artificial insemination bring their birth father into their family life.

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

My favorite scenes in the film were always the ones with the moms, and the group scenes were also fun to watch. This is a fine written film, with acting going from ok to very good, and some really nice moments of smart directing.

Annette Bening as Nic
It’s always hard for me to say what I generally feel about Annette Bening as an actress. I think in all of her performances I can spot the bit of arrogance that we all see in her interviews and TV appearances (if I remember it well, a performance making the exception is in The Grifters); it’s not really typecasting, it is her intellectual, a bit snobbish, way of being that gives a certain royal feel to all of her performances. It sounds like I’m putting it against her: but I’m really just saying that THIS is her thing, this is her distinctive acting style and sometimes it really works, especially when she gets a more frigid, tense character.

Annette plays Nic, a lesbian doctor who is in a longterm successful relationship with Jules, and the two of them have two wonderful teenage kids together. When the children’s biological father is brought into their family life, Nic has a hard time adjusting to that, and it creates a tense environment that will affect their quiet lives. It’s a good role that any actress would want, and even though she’s a co-lead in a great ensemble, Nic is so different from Jules, as a character, that both of the performances really stand on their own.

It’s clear from the start that Nic is the man in the house, the alpha-female, and she is the one who has to hold most of the big responsibilities. It’s a role that she likes, and Annette does a great job underlining the controlling aspect of Nic’s personality. She is not that possessive, but she loves giving the final word on just about everything. Annette’s more intellectual acting style comes of great use here: she gives us the clear impression that Nic is a very intelligent, smart woman, both loving and vulnerable, but mostly a mother-lion figure, as many scenes stand to prove it.

And there’s more to this character than the stuffy bitch image that she seems to display at first. Here’s where Annette greatly succeeds: she brings such a loving vulnerability to Nic, one that I’ve almost never seen her do before; there are scenes in which I completely forgot about her acting tricks and even I surrendered to this character and completely believed it and forgot about Annette-the-actress. Nic is the one to break your heart in this film, and Annette gets the task of just doing that and she beautifully delivers.

Her best acted scene is of course the confrontation scene in the bathroom, after she finds out about the affair. Just be honest with me, ok? she asks, and her acting is so perfect in the scene and so touching, that it’s almost breathtaking, all helped by the wonderful screenplay. Her teary eyes tell you everything that she feels in that moment, and it’s all balanced so masterfully.

Of course, there are many things to be said about the performance: from the singing, to the great line delivery, to the honesty of her tears during Jules’s big final speech. It’s a very good performance with a couple of fantastic moments. What her competition has, however, is much more screentime, which might explain why she won’t win this year. But to me this is a strong . I wouldn’t be upset if she pulls a shocker on Oscar night.


dinasztie said...

She is certainly great. I think I'll see her next.

Do you think she can pull off that upset? I think she can though Natalie's win seems quite sure.

Deiner said...

4 stars is a good rating, I really liked this performance and I'm glad you liked her too.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

I simply love her here, even though she's the typical "male" in the relationship there are also moments where Cholendeko switches it up and Jules is like the cool dad and Nic is like the shrewish mom and I just love her line-reading of "I like this guy." at the final dinner scene.

She's so great here, I'm PRAYING for her to win. Sigh.

Allen said...

I thought Bening was great as well, though I was a bitunderwhelmed by the performance as a whole because she wasn't on screen as much as I'd have liked. I'd rather nominate Moore over Bening to be honest, but I'm satisfied nonetheless.

hey deanie said...

I love this performance. Perfectly grounded, real, subtle realization of a fascinating character. Between Portman and Bening, I'm sure as hell hoping Bening wins.

Malcolm said...

Perfectly grounded on authority in every scene she is in. Though I was also concerned with her screentime, she commands a powerful presence that you cannot ignore because she was in fact great.

But I agree with you. 4 would be the best grade for her. Still, a great performance. I'm with Julianne Moore though. :)

Anonymous said...

I loved Bening in this, I really hope she wins the Oscar and causes an upset, she wasn't in nearly as much as Julianne Moore but I reckon she had the better character, and she was sublime. Wonderful wonderful Wonderful!!!!

Brad M.

Alex in Movieland said...

well, I kinda knew everybody/most of you would really get behind this performance. :)

Brandon (Twister) said...

I can't stand her performance, though ALex, your appreciation for her work does bring to mind one moment where she sells me as something other than a one-note bitch; the dinner scene where she's silently putting the pieces together, and her face conveys each flicker perfectly.

TomS said...

Alex, I thought Bening was so real here, and in such command of her craft and her character, that i think it would be a just victory if her name is called on Oscar night. I loved Portman, too, so I'm expecting her to prevail...but Bening's win will elicit one of the biggest cheers at our little gathering!