Friday, July 2, 2010

Shirley MacLaine in Irma la Douce

Shirley MacLaine received her third Best Actress nomination for playing Irma, a prostitute from Paris in Billy Wilder's amusing comedy Irma La Douce. MacLaine famously (IMO undeservedly) lost to Liz Taylor when she said some not very nice things about why she did not win. In Irma la Douce she reunited with her co-star in The Apartment, Jack Lemmon. The success was sure and MacLaine received her nomination for her rather leightweight work and I think received many consolation votes from some Academy memebers.

Irma la Douce is an ordinarily funny, but very amusing Billy Wilder-Jack Lemmon movie, which is very far from the brilliance, say, Some Like it Hot or The Apartment. But again it's very-very entertaining and definitely has great lines and very good jokes. The actors give decent comedy performances, Jack Lemmon (my favorite actor ever) is not at the top of his game here, so it's no wonder he was not nominated. This is probably the only movie where I did not like him the most (or at least the second.

Shirley MacLaine's performance as Irma is a very underappreciated one and I dare to say that this nomination of hers is quite disliked or even hated. In a way I can understand the criticism or why people do not love it, this is just not the type of nominated comedy role which people like or appreciate. It's very delightful, but not really one of the best of Shirley or the Best Actress nominees.

Yet I don't want to say anything bad about her, because she really stole the show from the beginning. Even with the first scenes she shows her charm and joy and I think it was simply hilarious. Although when I saw it for the first time I was blown away by her first scenes, now my appreciation has cooled a bit, which does not necessarily mean dislike. It's funny though that throughout the movie you are impressed by someone, but after that the whole thing disappears unfortunately.

She's the best at saying the hilarious lines in such a weird and still funny way. She uses every opportunity to shine, but still after all I felt that something was missing from her performance, I feel that it's a bit incomplete as the beginning of the movie completely focuses on her but in the end she becomes a simple co-lead. First we get to know an independent, loveable and (in a way) conventional call-girl, who's far from the hooker-with-a-hear-of-gold type and it's absolutely free from clichés.

The best parts are in the beginning, including my favorite one, where she first meets Jack Lemmon's character, Nestor. The way she acts in that scene is simply hilarious, radiant and joyful and probably one of the best comic scenes I have ever seen. She's very light, in fact a bit too light for my taste. I don't want to see forced acting, but I want to think that she worked hard on her performance.

As I said, in the end her performance becomes very slow, her presence gets much-much weaker and I started to miss the Shirley of the beginning. But again I can't blame her as she was simply not given that much to do in then and simply did not have the oppotunity to show how much she can do. Although she's able to completely steal the show and outdo Jack Lemmon in many scenes (which is quite impressive), I just cannot really overcome the fact that she nearly faded in the end, which always influences the overall opinion about a performance.

So to sum up, I can only compare her to Emily Watson in Hilary and Jackie. a very different performance. During the movie I was quite impressed and I liked her, but while I was writing the review I suddenly had complaints, doubts and I finished it sourly, struggling to go on. Too bad, as I wanted to love Shirley and I did in a way, it's her performance just lacked something which would have made it special. Still, she's very entertaining and sometimes even hilarious. Good job nevertheless and definitely nomination- and Globe-worthy.

So what do you think? Do you agree or not? I would like to see comments! :)

1 comment:

Louis Morgan said...

It is interesting when you see a performance like it, then when you try to write up about it you really cannot say why you like it and start thinking of problems. I know that has happened to me many times.