Sunday, September 04, 2011

Anne Bancroft, in Agnes of God
approximately 31 minutes and 17 seconds
33% of the film

The film

When a naive novice nun is discovered with a dead newborn in her conventquarters, a court appointed psychiatrist investigates her case.

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

A mess of a film, with overall uninspired writing, terrible dialogue and ridiculous screenplay solutions. Most of the performances are all over the place, and it sure lacks some strong directorial guidance.

Anne Bancroft as Mother Miriam Ruth

I’m gonna change a bit the regular structure of my Best Actress profiles, as I’ll give the rating right now, in the first paragraph. To justify it, I’ll keep it short. From the 90-something Best Actress performances I got to write about so far, THIS is the worst. Elizabeth Taylor, at least, had some insanity spark going on and nailed the bitchiness in Raintree County. Vanessa Redgrave had nothing to do in Morgan!, but at least she was charming enough to barely make it watchable and almost funny. These ladies had SO few to work with. I have nothing against Anne Bancroft’s acting in general, but when you get a juicy dramatic role and fill it with the most uninspired, awful acting choices, without any understanding of the character or sense of direction… then I have to call you out for this. It’s the first time I’m using this rating, as it’s undoubtedly the WORST performance I’ve written about since starting the series. So, Anne, it’s a .

Anne plays Mother Miriam Ruth, the Mother Superior at a Canadian Convent. When one of her nuns kills her newborn, she tries her best to protect the young woman, while also having to deal with a very persistent psychiatrist, willing to find out the whole truth. Sure, the dialogue in the film is messy, but otherwise it should be

the most interesting character in the film, as she is, in some measure, the puppet-master. The unfortunate result: the most boring, confusing performance.

Both times I saw it I tried to figure out what was wrong with the performance, why isn’t it glued at all, what is Anne trying to tell us… My conclusion is that she isn’t telling us anything, she’s just terribly confused, changing the character’s attitude from one scene to another, sometimes from one line to another, without making it cohesive or even define it as a characteristic of Mother Miriam.

The role was created on stage by Geraldine Page, and I don’t even wanna imagine what such a

creative actress might’ve done with it. It’s a role that allows the actress to play around, and it could work so easily IF you make up your mind on how to act it. Bancroft goes for nun-next-door, creating a character that’s neither smart, nor funny, even though the dialogue wants us to believe that. She goes for a type of character that cracks jokes, tries to be funny, keeps a surprised dumb look on her face and ultimately creates the dullest character in the film.

There’s one scene where she rushes into the psychiatrist’s office, with some energy and fury, and it’s maybe the one decent acting moment because she manages the shouting, but all this with the help of the editing and very often cuts to Jane Fonda. Beyond that there’s nothing but confusion, lazy acting, uninspired line readings, failure to express real emotion or to explore the potential of the character.

There was no acting plan to this performance, no perspective, no angle, just poor, very poor choices. When an actor manages to sink the character even lower than the screenplay had planned for it, than I’m just fine with my 1 star rating. Giving it anything more than that wouldn’t be fair to all those ok performances that received 2 stars from me.


Fritz said...

Wow, that surprised me (but I'm not a big fan either).

dinasztie said...

Well, this was kind of surprising. :)

Malcolm said...

I haven't seen this yet (and I really want to), but when I immediately saw that 1 star, I was shocked and said "OH MY GOSH."

Guess you hated it a lot. :) This year's very exciting. :))

Alex in Movieland said...

"hate" is a big word. It frustrated me more than any other Best Actress performance I've reviewed so far.

for me it was extremely easy noticing the childish mistakes she makes in every little scene, one after the other. And considering unlike others this was a character with potential, it makes the result even more tragic.

she IS imo the worst I've written about so far, so it seemed right to inaugurate that 1 Star.

Anonymous said...

Major ouch. She wasn't that bad...

Alex in Movieland said...


To each his own opinion. :)

mrripley said...

I think a one is a bit much,just my opinion,i think there have been worse nominated perforamnces from the 30's right up to helen mirren in 2009!!!

my 85 ballot

anne bancroft
geraldine page
whoopi goldberg
meryl streep - plenty.

Alex in Movieland said...

I was talking about the almost-20 Best Actress years I got to write about...

joe burns said...

Ouch! Poor Anne! She will most certainly be last.

Cal said...

Go girl! Completely agree with this rating ;-)

Alex in Movieland said...

wow, we agree on something. I did say on twitter this will go down in history :D

Anonymous said...

I liked her very much. She was entertaining, alternately manipulative and funny and defensive.

Alex in Movieland said...

@hey deanie,

obviously I don't agree. :) I don't think we have similar tastes, considering how much I liked Meryl in Sophie's Choice, and as noticed you didn't :D