Pauline Collins received her only Oscar nomination to date for playing Shirley, a lonely housewife in Lewis Gilbert's movie, Shirley Valentine. Pauline Collins recreated her Tony-winning role as Shirley to big success. I think that she may even have been third in the race which was stirctly between Michelle Pfeiffer and Jessica Tandy. Nevertheless, she never turned out to be a huge star despite this nomination, which I felt was certainly well-deserved.
Shirley Valentine is a very entertaining and lovely movie despite the fact that it has no real story, but it is sure much fun and I enjoyed every single minute of it. There are such witty lines, situations and scenes in it that you're just feel good about the whole thing. It's not high art, but it is certainly well-worth watching it at least once. I mean, you see ordinary people with ordinary problems and the whole thing is so incredibly relaxing.
Just like the movie, Pauline Collins' performance consists of two very different parts: the old Shirley in the unhappy, rainy England and the new, happy Shirley in the sunny, beautiful and romantic Greece. If you're worried that this is just like a Julia Roberts-like romantic Eat, Pray, Love thing about an depressed woman resting at the sea. No, it's a very ordinary story and Pauline Collins gives a terrific and very natural performance, which charmes you instantly.
Although Shirley is an unhappy character with whom you can quite easily sympathize, Collins never lets you pity her. She shows that Shirley is actually a very nice and strong person, who just wants to enjoy her life little bit. That's all she needs, but sometimes she just lacks courage to do so. It's so amazing to see her backing when she has to do something for a change. Collins never uses very heavy drama with Shirley, actually, she's extremely hilarious somtimes, like in her brilliant Oscar clip with "sex for breakfast, sex for dinner, sex for tea and sex for supper". As I said she's just so damn natural with those lines that it's amazing.
What impresses me most in her performance is the fascinating character development. Pauline had already played Shirley on the stage and I think it was an important factor as I always felt that she knew this character so thrillingly well. Every move, every expression is simply perfect and is excellently solved by Pauline.
The scenes in England sometimes go a bit over-the-top and I felt that Pauline's performance here is much less effective than the second half. There Pauline might have been a bit weaker, but she was excellently showing the emptiness of Shirley. She's so damn real in the scene where her husband throws the dinner away and she decides to tell him that she goes to Greece for a vacation.
However, you can easily spots the changes in Shirley's personality even in the English scenes, where she refuses to be the servant of her daughter and ulitmately decides to travel. We can see: this woman's fed up with the stupid, meaningless days and wants some excitement.
Shirley finds this excitment in Greece (naturally) with a charming local man. The scenes on this man's boat, when Shirley jumps into the sea and then the two have sex, is just adorable. And the funny remarks of Shirley to the audience during the intercourse is so damn out-of-place and yet simply adorable.
As I said this is no heavy drama, but there's one scene which really broke my heart. It's right before this exciting day for her, when she sits on the beach, drinking wine and thinking about her emptiness and her unfulfilled life: we see that she has so much potential and desire to live a great life, but there's always something getting in her way. However, she reaches the state of happiness finally and as she says she falls in love with herself and manages to accept herself.
This is a delightful and funny work by an actress who should be much more famous and well-known. Collins' Shirley Valentine is a loveable, life-like, beautiful character and Collins gives probably the most enjoyable performance I've reviewed so far. Its strenght might be a bit uneven, but it can be easily forgiven. Excellent work.
A very-very deserving 4.5, an almost 5.
So what do you think? Do you agree or do you want to scratch my eyes out? Tell me! :-) And also if you have any requests for the next years, please, don't be shy!