Saturday, March 12, 2011

Debbie Reynolds in The Unsinkable Molly Brown

Debbie Reynolds received her only Oscar nomination to date for playing the unsinkable Molly Brown in The Unsinkable Molly Brown. Debbie Reynolds was a huge star back then and the fact that she had this very huge musical role with much singing, tears and the opportunity for a great performance might have helped her get some votes. She could even be second after Julie Andrews though the third or fourth place might be more probable. One will never know, though. There might have been some sympathy left for her after the Eddie Fisher/Liz Taylor scandal (though by that time Liz was with Richard Burton already).

The Unsinkable Molly Brown is a movie that is sometimes unbearable to watch (sometimes it even tops Gloria and that's something, really). However, after a time somehow I got used to it and it wasn't much of a torture later on. Whenever there were no "emotional" scenes between Harvey Presnell and Reynolds, the whole thing was quite OK. But whenever Presnell started singing, I could have smashed the screen with an axe. The story is basically about an uneducated, poor girl who's planning to get married to a rich guy. She eventually marries a poor guy who becomes incredibly rich later on. Nothing is easy, though in the snobbish society of Denver.

Somehow, I never really cared about Debbie Reynolds. Besides The Unsinkable Molly Brown, I only saw her in Sining in the Rain, in which she was quite good though I don't really understand the hype about that performance (i's very much like her nominated performance as Molly Brown). Therefore, I did not know what to expect from Debbie here. First of all, I have a thing against 60s musicals as they annoy me incredibly. I don't like that whenever there's an "emotional" or "funny" scene, people start singing (which is more like yelling). There are romantic songs, songs from the poor but honest crowd and so on. And this is something that's true here.

The most important thing I noticed: Debbie Reynolds was clearly acting for that Oscar. This is a typical musical performance which secures at least a nomination for the lead. And the character like Molly Brown is one of the best examples for such baity roles. There's much singing, dancing, there are lot of stupid scenes which were meant to be funny and of course the big tears in the end. The whole thing was so predictable but that did not surprise me. Although I knew that I would get this, I secretly hoped that I would get something different and truly surprising.

The beginning of Reynolds' performance as the poor, loud mountain girl with a stupid face is quite simply horrible. There we go, I said it. It's so loud and she went way over the top with Molly. There isn't a subtle moment at all and every second is incredibly annoying. I mean what was the purpose of those grims on her face? It really did not serve that something which was meant to be a story.

I was about to die, when something happened. The whole performance became quite fun after a while. I don't know if it was because I started to get used to the badness or that it was actually good. I don't know but there was light at the end of the tunnel. Reynolds was quite entertaining in the scenes when Molly and Johnny become rich and are just trying to fit in. She's quite charming when she reacts to not being invited to a party. Right there, I felt some sympathy for this character and it lasted for a while (until they get home from Europe).

The temporary goodness in her performance disappears after a while. However, she's not as horrible as she was in the scenes in the beginning. She's not even bad but she doesn't really have much of a presence anymore and I just wasn't really interested in Molly anymore (not that I had ever really been previously). There wasn't much to care about. There was a drunk scene, which was handled quite well but it was nothing special, really. And then the huge dramatic moment with tears... it was nice but (again) nothing special.

So, I can say that I got what I expected, a standard 60s musical performance from Debbie Reynolds. Although this work is really mixed and uneven, there are some scenes to admire or at least like about it. It's nothing mindblowing or ground-breaking but it did not bother me that much, so I don't feel bad about it. It even had a minor positive effect on me.
I did not feel bad about her, though.

What do you think? It's time for the final predictions!


Louis Morgan said...

I expected as much, although I have not seen this one,I know what you mean about certain 60's musicals.

I'll stick to my original predictions.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I did expect lower.

I can't wait to watch her again, since I'm...not a fan, to say the least...

joe burns said...

Saw her a long time ago, so I don't really remember her.