Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Gene Tierney, in Leave Her to Heaven
approximately 59 minutes and 33 seconds
57.2% of the film

The film

The story revolves around a femme fatale who entraps a husband and commits several crimes motivated by her insane jealousy.

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

The film is an explosion of color, but ultimately a really messy film because of the story and the way it chooses to present its leading character. It’s dull for the most part, and Gene Tierney just doesn’t have the balls to make smart choices, when the director won’t.

Gene Tierney as Ellen Berent Harland

As I see it from a 2011 perspective, there might’ve been 2 or 3 elements to justify the nomination. First, I doubt there was a really big competition for a nomination as the field looked scattered. The other two arguments are much more relevant: I dunno why but Leave Her to Heaven proved to be a massive box-office success, so everybody saw it. And another good argument can be summed up in one word: Laura – many felt like she should’ve been nominated the previous year. So this is how Miss Tierney tricked her way into this nomination…

Gene plays Ellen Berent, a beautiful, rich, smart, charming young woman who falls in love with a kind writer, but her insane jealousy pushed her into crazy, unjustified actions like allowing his

kid brother to die or hurting herself just to get what she wants. It sounds like an interesting role, right? Well, it's not, because for the most of it it’s the most boring interpretation of such a persona.

I think the biggest problem with Gene’s and the director’s take on Ellen is that they can’t decide who they want this woman to be: either a complete lunatic, a psycho – and then it might justify her actions in a more clinical way; or a nice woman who just can’t control her obsession – which would be fine, only that she clearly isn’t, in this story. No regular jealous woman would do the things Ellen does. I refuse to believe that. They’ve chosen the middle path: a sometimes well-intended woman who does horrific stuff – it NEVER works, and it kills any interest I might have in the story.

So the fact is that Gene gets punk’d by the director and the writer and somehow she isn’t willing to take Ellen’s madness far enough in the construction of the character, so that it would justify

her actions. By not risking it, she almost completely loses the believability of this woman, any sense of empathy, any understanding that the audience might have.

Sure, Gene is pretty, and she’s never visibly bad in the role. But the performance lacks courage, Gene plays it safe and delivers a character that too often looks like it’s sleepwalking through the film. Her best acting moment is when she turns a bit bitchy: the lake scene, played with a chilling villain attitude and when served with such lines as After all, he’s a cripple – that feel in the spirit of the character, are delivered the right way, but too few to count.

To me it’s not a bad performance, but a lazy one. You might get some seconds of potential greatness when the camera’s focused on her face, but overall the performance lacks vitality, courage, an understanding of the character and most of all: believability. I have no problem in giving it a . Anyway, I know the performance has its fans, it’s just how I see it. She does play arrogance to perfection, always did – I’ll give her that.


Fritz said...

Well, I'm a fan. :-)

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

I find her absolutely delicious, the film is a bit silly and is the character insane? Probably, but I love Gene in it.

Rob said...

Alex, I feel the same way! Although I love, love, LOVE "Leave Her To Heaven", I've never thought Tierney was all that great in the role, but heck, she's just so damned pretty to look at (as are all the actors, and the film itself)!
That said, when she tells the doctor "He's a cripple!" is really a shocking moment...
Yet another great post, Alex--and those screen captures are stunning!

dinasztie said...

Well, this doesn't seem to be a strong year for you.

Alex in Movieland said...

well, I did predict the existance of some fans. :)

indeed, it's not strong, but it's cool to do because the performances are not familiar to me.

Michael Patison said...

The movie's stunningly gorgeous and Tierney is too. I'm a fan of the performance, though not an adamant one, and she's actually my vote. That said, the film isn't spectacular and not even any better than good.