Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Valerie Perrine in Lenny

Valerie Perrine received her only Best Actress nomination for playing Honey Bruce, the wife of the tragic comedian Lenny Bruce in the movie Lenny. Perrine also won many critics' awards that year, but she got them for her supporting work. I'm quite certain that had she been nominated in the supporting category, she would have won as it was a lousy year there. This is again a good example of bad campaigning, which probably made her the fourth runner-up.

Lenny is a very great, but depressing movie about the scandalous and tragic life of the outspoken comedian Lenny Bruce. I certainly got a lot out of it and enjoyed it (as much as you can enjoy a depressing movie. All the nominations are justified in my humble opinion. Bob Fosse was a great filmmaker and even though this movie is not even close to Cabaret or All that Jazz, it's still a work of great quality with exceptional performances. Especially Dustin Hoffman, whom I consider the greatest actor of his generation. He plays Lenny with such passion. Many people think that he did not identify with Lenny enough, but I thought that he was fascinatingly disappeared in his role.

And yes, there's Valerie Perrine. There's a very tricky question about her which is very-very arguable: is she leading or supporting? At the beginning of the movie, she totally controls it and has even more to do than Dustin Hoffman, however towards the end she totally disappears and after she's out of jail, she's there for about 10 minutes. I still believe that the supporting campaign would have made more sense (I definitely would have voted for her there). In a way she's the definition of the supporting role of the wife of a genious. I loved that unlike, say, Jennifer Connelly in A Beautiful Mind, Perrine gave a very layered and complex performance of such a character. These wife roles are always very tricky (they work very well with the Academy either way), but Perrine was able to avoid all the traps.

First of all, I loved the kind of emotional honesty with which she approached this character. Many say it and it's certainly true: she's the heart of the movie. Personally, I preferred Hoffman to her, however I could never really deny her emotional impact on me. She's not using many tools, she never goes technical, she always relies strictly on the emotions. I certainly appreciated her rawness and remarkable naturality. She totally became this woman without seeming forced and unreal.

She's unbelievably credible in the interview scenes, showing how simple this woman really is. I loved when she was talking about I'll Cry Tomorrow and corrects the interviewer that it's Susan Hayward while breaking down on-screen. That's one of the most unforgettable moments that I've ever seen.

However, I also must say that sometimes she paled a bit as the movie really put her into the background. This is definitely not her fault and yet it affected the whole of her performance and that's probably why most people feel that it's a supporting performance. She has the heart and impact of a supporting player and she does that quite beautifully.

Probably her greatest scene is a long and desperate telephone call when she's arrested while on drugs. She shows so many emotions with her face and is totally hearbreaking to watch. There's a woman humiliating herself to another person while showing desperation, anger, fear and devastation. As I said Perrine masterfully deals with the emotions of this character.

So to sum up, I can say that I saw a very-very good performance, which might be more of supporting, but has such a huge effect on you with it's emotional honesty and naturality that you are certainly amazed. Memorable work, worthy of a nomination, and deserving of a good rating.
So what do you think? What place do you think she will have in my ranking?


Louis Morgan said...

I basically agree with your rating and your description, although it sounds like you liked Hoffman a little more than I do, and the movie a lot more than I do.

Anonymous said...

Aw, I'd give her a five! She was phenomenal...interesting that she won Best Actress at Cannes over Ellen Burstyn in "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore".

joe burns said...

I would give her a 4, 5/5. She was brilliant, though I also think she's Supporting. I'm guessing she'll be fourth or fifth, depends on your thoughts on Caroll. Can you do Caroll next?