Monday, November 22, 2010

Anjelica Huston in The Grifters

Anjelica Huston received her third (and to date last) Oscar nomination for playing Lily Dillon, a con artist in Stephen Frears' movie, The Grifters. From what I've heard, she was the early favorite to win the award, so I guess she was second in the voting proccess. I think her win was not that sure after Kathy Bates won the Golden Globe. After this, Huston did not have many other significant roles. I wonder what would have happened had she won.

The Grifters is a very interesting movie. When I first saw it, I was totally mesmerized by it, this time I was a bit less enthusiastic. Now I found it boring occasionally, bu there were some great and memorable things about in it: Annette Bening (whom I really like since I saw The Kids Are All Right) gives a very good and extremely seductive performance, which is enough for a nomination with me, but I think the win would have been too much and Whoopi is still my pick. John Cusack is so surprisingly young here, but he's still able to put on a strong performance.

Anjelica Huston plays Lily, a bitter and cold professional, who's a very strange and complex personality. She's so mysterious and full of secrets that you never actually know what's next with her or her relationship with her son, or if she loves him. Anjelica Huston plays Lily with extreme subtlety, holding back her emotions, which results in an interesting, but also a bit undercooked.

This becomes visible mostly at the beginning of the movie: Lily is very silent and Anjelica plays her in a bit robotic way, which lacks real emotions. And yet, somehow it's not a real flaw in her performance: actually, I felt that she couldn't get more out of the screenplay as there wasn't more in it. There you really don't suspect how interesting Anjelica's performance really is. It's so full of layers and always hides from you. That may not work for some and it would amaze others.

When we first see Lily, she comes across as a very cold professional, who knows her job and aims and does everything to reach her goal, even if it means cheating, stealing or even killing. Lily is just terrified of the thought of disappearing in a decent life. Not only does she want things, she just gets them. And this attitude makes her a very unlikeable and yet attractive character.

Her performance has its highlight in the very strange scene between her and Pat Hingle's character. Lily is just like a terrified little animal, even her screams reminded me of that. She just cries when she's tortured, but minutes later she's just saying how well his suit looks. That pain and fear in her eyes, nervous ticks, and speaking is just unbelievable. That was the moment when I felt real connection to Lily. Until then it was just a bit mediocre and pale, but after this it really becomes something exciting and unique.

Lily's hate for Annette Bening's character, Myrna is, however, not properly done. I think it was too bitchy and not hateful enough. I just wanted to feel more, that they just wanted to kill each other and instead I got bitchy one-liners (but that's rather the screenplay's fault than Anjelica's). This aspect was not the greatest, but it did not make it worse.

Although her performance seems to be undercooked in the beginning, later, Anjelica has such a powerful and impressive screen presence, which just cannot be overlooked. Who can forget her worrying about her own life or nervously packing the money into a briefcase? Huston perfectly caught the neurotic side of this character and I just kept wondering why Lily acts like this.

Her relationship with her son is also very odd: there's some kind of an incestous love, but also hate between them. With their kissing scene in the end, they might have want to shock the audience, but I think it much better showed the desperation of Lily to survive. Her instincts worked only and nothing more.

After that you can wonder if the big twist which she causes in the story was her intention or it was just an accident, but I guess, it's somewhere between the two. On the one hand, there's this hysterical scream of hers, but then she just puts the money nervously into the case. So confusing, but it's just unbelievably effective.

So to sum up, Anjelica Huston's performance in The Grifters is bit a mixed bag: there are moments of boredom and slowness, but then there's such intensity and mistery in it, which almost made me speechless. It's not flawless, but it's very memorable work by a talented actress. It consits of a pale 3,5 and an ultra strong 5, so I guess I found the proper rating.
It's just not more. I was thinking of 4,5, but after all 4 was more reasonable.

What do you think? I know I said her profile was due on Friday, but I had time. Joanne's profile mightbe up soon, so stay tuned.


Anonymous said...

I never really got the appeal of all.

Louis Morgan said...

I have not seen this one, but I will predict:

1. Bates
2. Streep
3. Huston
4. Woodward
5. Roberts

joe burns said...

I agree with the rating: I thought she was great all the way through, a bit shaky in some scenes, but terrific none the less.

dinasztie said...

Joe: well, I wouldn't say that she was terrific, but she had her VERY strong moments.

Anonymous said...

Anjelica should have won full stop. She was robbed, Anjelica deserved it. She is the best actress ever

dinasztie said...

Well Anonymous, we all have our opinions.