Saturday, October 08, 2011

Jessica Lange, in Sweet Dreams
approximately 79 minutes and 30 seconds
71% of the film

The film

Lange portrays Patsy Cline, the velvet-voiced country singer who died in a tragic plane crash.

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

No, I’m no fan of this film; even if I’d agree with the focus put on the relationship between Patsy & her husband, I still don’t like the way it’s done. The writing is bad, at one point even trying to justify his abusive behaviour. It should’ve been more about her love for music & her songs, and less about domestic violence.

Jessica Lange as Patsy Cline

It needs to be said that any Jessica Lange fan would probably rate this 3 stars or higher! It’s not that I dislike her, I’m actually quite inlove with her as a person & movie star & gorgeous woman, but I believe that her sensuality, her sexiness is so powerful that it often limits the area of roles that would fit her. Sometimes she’s perfectly cast, other times not so much… I think Jessica’s charm is so distinctive, especially in her younger years, that it makes it hard for her to sell some of the roles, let alone a biopic performance of legendary country singer Patsy Cline.

Jessica plays Patsy Cline, country music superstar, from her early days of anonymity to her successful years, up to her tragic death. The film is mostly focused on her relationship with her abusive husband and their bumpy love story. The role makes room for enough loud scenes & shouting, but such moments of domestic trouble weren’t so interesting to me. As for the scenes with singing, her lip-sync is… just ok; not the worst, but you could easily notice the difference.

As you can tell, my biggest trouble with this performance is that I didn’t see Patsy in it. Jessica surely tries and she is most effective in the quieter scenes, like the ones after the car accident or any other time when she gets to reflect on what’s happening around her. Sometimes, she fails: her loud southern style is unconvincing and often feels unnatural, as if she was trying just a bit too hard. Also, her scenes as younger Patsy are the weakest.

A good screenplay might’ve made the difference and would’ve allowed Jessica, if not to convince me this is biopic, at least to put in some depth into the character. However, as it is, the writing is very lazy, sometimes giving way too much explained emotion into the dialogue, when we should’ve actually seen that through Jessica’s acting. I didn’t feel a connection to the character, because most of it is laid just on the surface… Could Jessica have done better with an ok screenplay? Hard to say. What I do know is that I had almost no idea who Patsy was, other that some loud, abused wife.

And you know I cannot not mention that Meryl was up for this role and didn’t get it… While it doesn’t affect my judgment of Jessica’s performance, I suspect Meryl would’ve been more convincing even just by letting sensuality behind and losing herself in the character… Because Jessica’s performance has a bit too much sassiness in my opinion and not enough real emotion spread throughout the film.

Jessica is good, she’s ok, she’s gorgeous in the second half, but not convincing to me. And while I’ve clearly underlined the failure of the screenplay and the direction also is messy as hell, this shouldn’t influence my perception of the final result. Truth is, to me it’s an unsatisfying, incomplete performance; while I considered at one point to give it more, I must go with a strong . But seriously: love you, Jessica! It just wasn’t the role for you, also not the screenplay.


Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

Well...what's there to say? A vehement "I disagree" seems silly. It's been some time since I've seen this, and I want to re-watch it taking your ideas into perspective. I didn't think of it as a Jessica fulfilling Patsy, something I think - sometimes to detriment - I never think of hoping performers do in biopics. I'm willing to buy into the Patsy of the movie, and it works for me.

Anonymous said...

wow it took you almost a month to write 3 paragraphs...

Rob said...

I agree w/you Alex. For me the killer is that Lange is too conventionally beautiful to play Patsy Cline. The real Cline was a big and occasionally brassy country girl, and in her own way, sexy as hell. But she was nobody's idea of a model!
Beverly D'Angelo in "Coal Miner's Daughter" NAILED it, and caught not only the character (and her vocal quality) but actually resembled the real Patsy Cline, to an almost eerie degree.
So yeah, to me, "Sweet Dreams" was pretty unneccesary, though I do give Lange points for trying. And I never knew Meryl was up for the role! That could have been interesting, but even she might have been defeated by the screenplay!

dinasztie said...

This turns out to be a bipolar year for you. On the one hand, you have a one-star- and a two-star-performance. On the other hand, you have one four- and one five-star performance. And I suspect Whoopi will get at least a 4 but I'm hoping that she will become your pick with a 5. :)

About Meryl: had she done this one, there would be no Out of Africa so things turned out brilliantly actually.

BTW, first, long before the movie was made (back in the 70s), Liv Ullmann was to play Karen Blixen (I guess in an earlier project). I wonder what she would have done with the character. :)

Alex in Movieland said...

@ Andrews,
I thought of you when writing because I knew she was your 2nd in this line-up :) I've first seen the film yeaaars ago and I actually remembered Jessica as being great... until I saw it again now. As usual, the fact that I really disliked the film didn't help my perception.

you are an anonymous mean bitch. my delay was explained in a previous post.

Yes, I really liked Beverly in Coal Miner's Daughter!! that year had a weak line-up for Supporting Actress, she should've been nominated. Plus, she sang beautifully.

@Malcolm (whose comment I can't see here, but received thru mail. unusual),
from what I can remember I thought she was just ok in Tootsie, but with such competition I surely wouldn't have given her that win. that was either Glenn, who had her best shot ever at winning or my darling Lesley Ann Warren. :)

I had a couple of surprises seeing Color Purple again this week. but more on that later.
I think they probably filmed Out of Africa long before Sweet Dreams, so she might've done both. Sure, she couldn't have been nominated for both in same year :) which would've made room for Cher's Mask.

Fritz said...

I thought Jessica Lange was great but I agree that the movie is rather medicore, especially compared to Coal Miner's Daughter.

mrripley said...

Agreed,i simply saw Lange playing her and not becoming her and to think she was the person who probably took Cher's nom for Mask away,i mean no g/g comed/musical nomination nothing and then a surprise on oscar nom morning

Alex in Movieland said...

yes, it's no Coal Miner's D...

I think it was partly because they did like Lange's performance, partly because they thought of it as an homage to Patsy... I think.