Anne Bancroft received her second Oscar nomination for playing Jo Armitage, a woman who has a very complicated life in the movie, The Pumpkin Eater. At the time, she was the actual front-runner along with Julie Andrews and I think that she wasn't far behind. Unlike Sophia, her previous win might have helped her but that might also be the cause why she eventually lost the award. She console herself with a Golden Globe, Bafta and a Best Actress award at the Cannes film festival. Apparently, Julie Andrews thought that Anne should have won. We'll se if I agree.
The Pumpkin Eater is a very unusual and extremely weird movie. Sometimes it's incredibly boring but sometimes it can be really fascinating. The main flaw about it is that it tries so hard to serve the needs and demands of its era. It's very 60s, it's very British, it's very artsy though somehow I felt it was a bit forced. Or it can be simply quite dated and that's it. Peter Finch who was a terrific actor, gives a very good performance here though he's quite lost occasionally. James Mason (just like in Georgy Girl) plays quite a pointless and perplexing role and I did not like him at all.
However, I really don't know what to think about Anne Bancroft in this movie. I had previously seen the performance but I did not understand it better this time even though I thought I would. Her whole acting in this movie is rather perplexing and it's very complex. Probably this is what settled her win at Cannes. This is a multi-layered role that must be incredibly hard to play and I don't think that many actresses could have pulled it off or at least not this way. It requires a performer who's fearless and emotional but who's also great at the technical parts. I think Anne Bancroft was a great choice. As I said about her in my review of her work in The Turning Point, she was an extremely versatile and interesting actress. She has the advantage of her great looks and magnificent voice. Whenever I hear her voice, I get chills. However, all these attractive things about her are NOT present in The Pumpkin Eater. Everything that worked on other occasion disappeared here. Surely, Anne did not choose the easy ways with this part.
Anne's performance here is incredibly strange and unusual and therefore it can be a bit distracting sometimes. There were scenes where she's so extremely harrowing and amazing that it made me literally speechless, like the one where she breaks down at the store. It's such an odd moment and it becomes even more weird with her hysterical laugh and cries. That breakdown scene is extremely shocking and it is certainly very depressing. Somehow I felt that Anne also went through this hell along with Jo. With small expressions on her face, Anne showed the pain of this character so thrillingly. I felt so uncomfortable while I was looking at her and sometimes I even resented her work. I felt so many emotions while I was looking at it and it is so intense and really haunting. Actually, when I was watching her, I wasn't that impressed but as I'm thinking about her I feel that she was really shocking and she totally grabbed me. When I turned it off, I felt really dazzled and confused. And let's just admit it: one doesn't like being confused. I realised that this whole thing showed the darkness in this character's head so thirllingly. You only realise it when you really think about (for the first time, she fooled me).
The relationship between Jo and her men are so thrillingly shown by Anne. This becomes so visible in the scenes between Jo and her psychiatrist. She's just sitting there uncomfortably and she's very embarassed. Those sequences are really strong. However, nothing can really live up to the confrontation scene between her and a woman at the hairdresser's. I think she might have been the darker side of Jo. She says "My life is an empty place" and Jo says that later, too. Anne is amazing there even though she mostly acts with her face.
Sometimes I really did not get what the purpuse of the movie really was but now I am beginning to understand it, thanks to Anne's greatness. It's extremely tough material that you see but once you feel the essence of it, it becomes a really fantastic experience. As I was watching it, I felt many times that she was boring and that her performance was just too forced but now I'm totally shellshocked. There's one scene which is quite probably the highlight of her performance and it's going to stay with me forever. After being operated (I'm not telling the reason), she has a minor breakdown when she's laughing hysterically. In its shocking way, that scene is really amazing.
So, this is an incredibly hard performance to judge. My opinion might change in the future but now I'm in awe of Anne Bancroft in The Pumpkin Eater. Anne chose all the difficult and risky ways with her character but she succeeded and she was able to put on a shocking, perplexing and terrying character study of a woman who has serious problems in her life.