Thursday, October 7, 2010

Ellen Burstyn in Same Time, Next Year

The great Ellen Burstyn (one of my favorite actresses) received her fourth Oscar nomination for reprising her Broadway role of Doris in the romantic comedy/drama Same Time, Next Year. Wow, I'm really sure that Ellen Burstyn received the least number of votes despite winning the Golden Globe (along with the great Maggie Smith). She won the Oscar four years before and really it wasn't her time.

Same Time, Next Year is a nice, but quite an ordinary romantic movie, which is certainly not for the ages, but it is occasionally very moving. As I said it's not the best one ever and it's not as entertaining as it was intended. I think this story is much better for the stage than the screen. Its famous song is really hailed and loved and I liked it a lot, but it did not blow me away. Alan Alda gives a great, if a bit uneven performance and I might even say that he deserved a nomination (I mean he has one reaaaally heartwrenching scene).

Ellen Burstyn is also good as Doris, but she's even more uneven than Alda. Although it's mostly the screenplay's fault, Ellen really could have don more with this role, I think. Actually, she gives multiple performances (each face of Doris is different and it's not that believable that she could change that much), so I' going to review them all.

In my opinion, the first Doris (in 1951) is just terrific: she's not very bright, but we can see how much more she could do with her life and what a lovely and warm person she is. Ellen totally caught her very simple thinking by adding a touch of irony to her. The start is just excellent and I thought that it would go on.

The second Doris of 1956 is probably the best acted one of all: right there Ellen totally grabbed my attention and I just could not take my eyes off her. There she's a bit like Julianne Moore in Far from Heaven: the kind, warm and perfect housewife of the late 50s. Her argument scene with Alan Alda at the airport is just unforgettable: when she says "I am a human being too" I almost got creeps. Her presence was really strong and I just loved her.

However, the best, most moving and funniest scene comes with the 1961 Doris. She has to deliver a baby in the room and Alan Alda doesn't know what to do. Her actions are so damn natural, funny and hearbreaking at the same time, that it's really an unbelievable packing. Although it's not as brilliant as the 1956 Doris, she's really just fine.

She totally loses her strength however in 1966, where Doris becomes a hippie. It's really not credible, it's awfully written and it was only for the sake of showing some trendy politics on screen (I would not have minded it had the movie's story justified it but it really did not fit the rest of it). Ellen is totally stuck in that awful character and she could not really find the way back to brilliance.

As the movie goes on, she doesn't really get that much better. The emancipated businesswoman Doris does not really have any showy or funny scenes and without great material, she really couldn't give anything memorable. I would have wanted some fire and music as Ellen Burstyn certainly is a fire-and-music actress. Her talent is so enourmous (see Requiem for a Dream, The Exorcist etc), but had I seen this movie first from her, I would not have had a great first impression of her.

The ending however (sort of) lives up to the first half and there are some good scenes. That "I'm already married" line is truly great, but it's not really THAT hearbreaking. I may have lost interest during the movie, but the effect of hers was really not that strong on me after all.

So, I can say that Ellen Burstyn gives quite a good, entertaining, but surprisingly uneven performance, which is quite far from her best works, but for an actress with less talent it would be a huge feat. But we're talking about Ellen Burstyn who's quite far from mediocre.
So what do you think? You cannot give your official predictions now! The final conclusion is here in a couple of hours!

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