Saturday, December 18, 2010

Jean Simmons in The Happy Ending

Jean Simmons received her second and last Oscar nomination for playing Mary Wilson, an unhappy, alcoholic housewife in her ex-husband's movie, The Happy Ending. I don't know where, but I read that Jean Simmons had a good chance of winning the Oscar as she was considered overdue. I think however, that she did not get that many votes. But who knows? After all she was a very serious and respected actress in a role that was very close to her.

The Happy Ending is a very, I mean very interesting movie, which I really enjoyed, probably even more than The Sterile Cuckoo, but I am really not sure about it. I hear many people complaining about it, so I did not expect anything great or revolutionary and probably that's why the movie was such a pleasant surprise. Despite some slow moments, it was very engaging, mostly due to the great performances by the actors. John Forsythe could really act before he turned to TV and Dynasty, I would probably have given him a supporting actor nom, but the others are also very good. Shirley Jones seems to be the most popular and although I liked her, she was not that special.

However, this movie really is The Jean Simmons Show. OK, I know that you're tired of this terms that I invented, but it's very true in this case. It's so obvious that The Happy Ending was written with her in her husband's mind and I think that Jean Simmons used every opportunity to shine in her role. 1969 was full of interesting, complex female characters, which are very hard to play, but if the actress gets it right, the effect is huge.

First of all, I must admit, that (just like in the case of the movie) I did not expect much from Jean Simmons as I am really not a fan of hers. Actually, I wouldn't even say that as I haven't seen enough movies with her: Hamlet was quite underwhelming, so was Elmer Gantry, though I must admit that I LOVED her guest spot on Murder, She Wrote as the rival crime writer. That being said, I can say that this performance was an extremely pleasant surprise, on that I really did not expect.

Mary is a very ordinary housewife with some minimal problems: she has an unhappy, fake marriage and she's also an alcoholic, by the way. That seems to be a very fun performance, right? From the first moment to the last, she's utterly depressing and has a very sad presence. Even if you look at her face, there's so much disappointment, sadness and anger in it, that it really gives you the blues. Moreover, Jean Simmons has a very unique screen presence, that doesn't always work for me, but here it was just amazing. I was a bit confused by her, but in a very good way.

I had a constant fear though, that her performance is going to turn out to be "I'm so unhappy, get me out of here and give me an Oscar please" acting that I usually see from Joanne Woodward, but I should not have worried. Simmons really believes in her character and she really reflected on her own life with this one. She's not playing herself (I think), but I always felt that Simmons was at the same place where Mary Wilson was. She knew the pain of this character and understood her deeply.

Mary is obsessed with Casablanca, love stories and happy endings in general and she was just so great at the beginning of the movie in the wedding scene. From that her strength never really went down and I was constantly amazed. As I said (and I want to say again), I felt close to this character and I really had some connection to her. Simmons is just so believable and natural in the scene when Mary has to stand still and cannot because she's so drunk. And miraculously she adds some humor to the depressing scenes. Her sarcastic one-liners are perfectly delivered and make her performance even more delicious. My only argument might be that sometimes her acting becomes a bit slow and loses its pace. But that's not a huge problem.

So after all, I have seen another fantastic performance, one that was a really pleasant surprise. It impressed me, had a big effect on me and most importantly I felt connection to the character. Simmons understood the character extremely well and handled her emotions so perfectly that I have to punish her for that with a great rating. :-)
Gee, this year is so strong so far. I wonder about the two other ladies. The next profile comes on Monday probably, I won't have time tomorrow unfortunately.

What do you think? Any predictions now?

BTW: I've just seen Rabbit Hole. Boy, Nicole Kidman is so great in it. She may even be better than Annette Bening, so unless Natalie Portman is THAT great, Nicole might just become my pick after all or it's Annette, I don't know yet. It's a slow, subtle, but very effective performance. The movie is also very good.


joe burns said...

I really like her too, though I felt that the script worked against her in a few ways. Still, a good performance...

Anyway, see Black Swan soon! Natalie is great...

Sage Slowdive said...

Shaping up to be a strong year it seems....