Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Joanne Woodward in Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams

Joanne Woodward received her third Best Actress nomination for playing Rita Walden, an extremely depressed houswife in the hard-to-find movie, Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams. Somewhere I read that Joanne and Barbra were the front-runners to win the Oscar that year, though I myself think that Ellen Burstyn had a great chance of winning, too. I think that despite Joanne's success with the critics, she was probably only fourth or fifth in the voting. Her movie was not a huge hit, she was a previous winner etc.

Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams is a very strange movie: it's neither good nor bad as I said it's very strange. I could never understood the whole point of it (I guess it was an Oscar nomination for Woodward and Sidney), because it was changing the subject so fast and there wasn't enough time to make the impact last. So it's a failed effort partly, but the acting achievements are quite good, especially the one given by Martin Balsam. Not only did he deserve to be nominated, but he also would have deserved to win, in my opinion. I don't undestand Sylvia Sidney's nomination (OK, I get that it's a career nom) since she doesn't do anything except being bitchy for 5 minutes and have a heart attack. Though some people almost orgasm over her acting in this one. I really don't get it.

And there's Joanne Woodward, who's an actress that I just cannot stand. She's (almost) always too mannered, teary and quite annoying, or if she isn't (Mr. & Mrs. Bridge), she doesn't do anything interesting. Therefore, I did not have many expectations from her. Furthermore, I saw this movie a year ago or so and her achievement wasn't surprising. Clearly, this is a role written with an Oscar nomination in mind and I always felt that Woodward was also aware of that. She tries to be as showy as possible in order to make the audience like the performance. Strangely, she succeeds.

I don't like her in usual and that's why I was so surprised to be captivated by the beginning of her performance. It was so impressive and really grabbed my attention despite the fact that I was sleepy. I forgot everything and I only concentrated on Woodward's performance. I felt that she really understood the problems of Rita: she has nothing to do, she's bored, depressed, scared and fed up with her lifestyle. She just needs some changes in her life and has to come to terms with her son's homosexuality. Rita's also full of regrets and she just lives in her past: she cannot let it go, she still wants to be a little girl listening to the stories of her grandmother. Her reaction to her mother's death is so excellently played by Joanne: she's shocked doesn't understand a thing. She's just astonishing in these early scenes.

However, there comes the London part, after which her performance loses its strength and becomes almost as uninteresting as Mrs. Bridge. Her breakdown scene in the underground is just terrific, however. There are so many emotions right there and she really made it a very memorable moment that you cannot easily forget. Her suffering faces, her tears are both annoying and devastating. I don't if it was the right thing, but I liked it, because there was something that made this character very human. Although Rita is very unlikeable, I still cared about her and felt sorry for her.

After this scene, Martin Balsam takes over the movie and he's so terrific that he almost completely overshadows Woodward. I had to force myself to concentrate on Woodward as Balsam really stole the spotlight from her. His character was so interesting and so full of real pain and compared to him, Rita is so dull. And she doesn't get any other great scenes, either. She's not bad as she's able to keep up her strong presence, but she's just not the same anymore. It all becomes quite slow and a bit boring. The dramatic intensity of her performance is really uneven and in my opinion it's always much more fortunate if you're not that strong in the beginning, but you make a lasting impression in the end. In Woodward's case it's the other way around and the viewer is always (mostly) effected by the ending. In the very last scene, Woodward is quite good, even moving, but that crucial lasting effect was just missing and therefore the whole performance became quite lacking. That's too bad.

So after all, I saw an occasionally great, but mostly underwhelming performance, which could have had an effect on me, but it's such a mixed overall achievement, that I was never truly impressed. Although there weren't any WOW! scenes, but I still liked this performance of an actress that I dislike. Good job.
Again I wasn't certain about the rating. I was thinking about 3.5 and even 4.5, but I think that this is fine after all.

What do you think? Any predictions, thoughts?

P.S.: As you can see, I will finish 1973 in 2010, but that's no problem, I think.


joe burns said...

I haven't seen her yet, but sure sounds interesting.

She's especially great in The Three Faces Of Eve, and Rachel, Rachel.

Louis Morgan said...

I have not seen here either, but I would give her the win for worst reaction, even worse than Burstyn's, since she had already won once.

Anonymous said...

She did a fantastic job I thought, kinda boring like you said, but still very good.