Friday, January 7, 2011

Gena Rowlands in Gloria

Gena Rowlands received her second Oscar nomination for playing Gloria Swenson, a mobster's girlfriend trying to save a child's life in John Cassavetes' movie, Gloria. Wow, I'm wondering how the Academy reacted to Gena's performance. I guess they liked her to a degree, because they nominated her. I doubt it that she received many votes, she might have even been last, but she could have been third as well. It's not really the type of performance that's recognised award shows.

I'm an official Oscar Nerd. Capital O and N. Gee, Gloria is a real torture for any mentally healthy human being who has a common sense. I mean, this movie is literally about NOTHING. There's nothing new, interesting or exciting about it, the story is as lame as possible, there's no point, everything is extremely repetitive, they check into thousands of hotels and so on. And I'm an Oscar Nerd because I did not stop watching, I dealt with the whole torture of the movie and an awful child performance, which was by the way a bit better than I expected. I was always hoping that Gena Rowlands comes with her enourmous talent and saves me from boredom. She didn't.

Gena Rowlands is a superbly talented and extremely interesting actress. There's so much to love about her and her performance in A Woman Under the Influence (despite being one of the most unpleasant works in history) is just mindblowing. I haven't seen Opening Night, though I'm eager to watch it some day. OK, to tell the truth, I did not have many expectations from her in this movie as I have read not very kind reviews about her, so I guess I was prepared. And yet secretly, deep in my heart I was hoping to love her.

Gloria is a very clichéd character that could have been written much better and I think that Gena would have been able to play a more complicated role. There's absolutely no depth in her, there's nothing that you can identify with, there's nothing interesting. I know that I sound awfully repetitive with this "There is nothing...", but this summarizes Gena's performance here perfectly: it's extremely lacking. And gosh, I so hate being disappointed by great actresses.

The first problem is that her line readings are so weak and exaggerated: she's like a dog that's showing its teeth to say "I'm gonna attack" and she's barking constantly. She always says "yoouuuuuu... PUNkssss... I mean what is this? What was it supposed to be? I think that Gena Rowlands is a brilliant actress but she's not enough to make me believe that Gloria is able to turn a car upside down with one shot. Gena always suffers from this backstabbing, idiotic screenplay that makes absolutely no sense. It's so horrible that you can only make at least tolerable. She made it tolerable and that's one of the real achievements of Gena here. If she hadn't been there, this trainwreck would have collapsed even more.

The developments in the character of Gloria are rather rushed: first, she hates children, in 5 minutes she gets to like this boy and in the end she feels like a mother. I so wanted Gena to show more of the vulnerable side of Gloria: Gloria's loneliness is so obvious, but neither the screenplay nor Gena realized that this could made the audience sympathize with her. I guess, Gena had some bright moments since towards the end, there are some really strong and even memorable moments with her. In the end, her big scene with the gangster is solved quite well by Gena, who put some emotion into it and I was a bit relieved and this really helped appreciate more. At least I saw the potential, though it never really came to life unfortunately. Too bad that it did not last a bit longer. I could have put up with a less tough and more vulnerable Gloria, who's a bitchier or at least entertaining.

So to sum up, Gena Rowlands (despite her great talent) is not able to save this trainwreck of a movie called Gloria, but at there are some short, but quite strong scenes that ingrained in my memory. I wasn't very disappointed to tell the truth (I knew what to expect), but it's painful to write so negatively about Gena. A failed effort (?).

Gee, I rarely give 3 Meryls.

What do you think?


Louis Morgan said...

Ouch, sounds like the type of film that tests one's devotion to Oscar reviewing, I know a few films did that to me, like Star! for example.

Sage Slowdive said...

We agree, not surprisingly :)

Fritz said...

I haven't seen her yet but I know how weird it feels to give a rating of only 3. :-)

Emma Hope said...

My favourite film next to Breaking Away. I can't understand why you think the little boy is anything but outstanding - his trying to be tough is meant to sound incongruous when he says "I am the man! " Gena Rowlands is elegant, feisty, and kind.

Anonymous said...

I respectfully must disagree ...Gena Rowlands was perfect as Gloria and I , for one loved this film!

SHT L said...

I guess you're not a John Cassavetes fan, are you? IMO, he's one of the greatest filmmakers of all time and created the American independent cinema movement.