Monday, November 1, 2010

Grace Kelly in The Country Girl

Grace Kelly received her second (and last) Oscar nomination and only award for playing Georgie Elgin, a woman married to an alcoholic has-been in the movie The Country Girl. Kelly's win caused enough controversy. Some loathe it, some think it's deserving. Actually she won by seven votes or so, which (according to the rumors) belonged to Judy Garland's old MGM bosses. So it was a great surprise that Kelly won over Garland, who seemed to be a shoo-in. I guess that the fact that she had the brilliant Rear Window (in which she was much better and more interesting) and Dial M for Murder might have helped her win.

The Country Girl is not a bad movie, but not a great one either. It's a decently made old movie, which has some drama in it, and yet it wasn't able to really impress me. The same goes for Bing Crosby's performance (well, only to a degree). He's unbelievable in some of the scenes but sometimes his performance slows down. Nevertheless, I can say that this is definitely Crosby's best performance in any movie and he richly deserved the nomination. William Holden is also good, but he got the least baity role.

Grace Kelly. A very familiar feeling came to me again after 2002 and some of 1978: dissatisfaction. It's really the worst thing that can happen as it means that the acting was actually good, but something kept me from totally embracing it. I had the same emotions I had with Nicole Kidman: there's one extremely moving scene, which stands out too much and makes the other parts look even weaker. But that scene is satisfying in a way.

First of all, I have to say (as many people before me) that Kelly was totally miscast as she was a) too young b) too inexperienced c) too beautiful (OMG, one could write thousands of pages about her beauty). People say that Susan Hayward started the so-called "acting for Oscar with baity, loud roles" tradition and that Grace Kelly is the origin of the deglam wins. I SO wanted to disagree and love her, but she really wasn't enough.

I was always trying to love her and embrace the character of Georgie, but the main problem is that Kelly didn't embrace the character herself enough to grab my attention. The weakest thing about her was her delivery of the lines: sometimes I felt as if she was at school saying a poem at a literature lesson. She did not connect the emotions to the dialogue and it caused a very mixed bag. I knew (and felt) that the emotions were inside her and she let some out with her face and eyes, but I did not get enough. And yet somehow she was able to make me sorry for her character and sometimes she even moved me.

However, she was able to build her character and show some development in it: Georgie is a bitter, incredibly sad and worried person who tries to control everything to prevent disaster and to protect his husband to whom she's very attached. I could always see how much Georgie was struggling, but not Kelly: she made it look quite easy actually.

As I said, in the beginning I had no emotional connection to the character of Georgie, but as the movie went on I got more and more close to her. There's a climatic confrontation scene between her and William Holden at the police station which is brilliant, and from there it seemed to me as if Kelly's performance got some life and by this, it became so much more interesting. This is especially visible in her last scenes, where she does not have much to say (and thank God she can rely on the emotions of her body) and her silence has so much weight.

Rating in this case is not very easy and I think that this may change. On the one hand, she's painfully miscast and in the beginning she has no weight. On the other hand, in the end her presence and effect is quite strong and is worthy of my praise. Not easy to judge it, but I myself missed her mysterious persona from her other movies, in other words, the essence of Grace Kelly. One part is around a 3, the other is around a 4, so it's somewhere around 3.5. Not easy, not easy. A weirdly effective and very uneven performance.
Just like in the case of Ginger Rogers and Nicole Kidman. A 4 wouldn't be fair I think.


Fritz said...

Nice review. I like her better but I agree that she's not perfect.

Oh, and the thing with the seven votes was stated by Hedda Hopper and there is now way she could have known that so it's pure speculation.

And I also have to say that, in my opinion, it's a legend that Kelly's win was a surprise: she had won every pre-Oscar Award, she was incredibly popular, she had 4 movies out that year and The Country Girl was nominated in all the important categories while A Star is Born was not. To me, Kelly sounds like a clear frontrunner.

dinasztie said...

I know about that Hedda Hopper story, that's why I wrote it's a rumor. You're right, these are Hollywood legends, but I like them.

Fritz said...


Oh, and my guess for your ranking:

1. Judy
2. Dorothy
3. Jane
4. Grace
5. Audrey

Louis Morgan said...

I agree with you on this one, but I would also say the script does not help either. Especially the really tacked on love triangle, and all of the sudden she stops being dowdy instantly at the end. Both do not help her performance one bit.

dinasztie said...

Louis: It's totally true. It just did not make sense.

joe burns said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
joe burns said...

I loved her! She was the best thing in The Country Girl. I'd give her a 4 and a half.

I think Judy was the favorite, but Kelly had a much better chance then most though.