Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Elizabeth Taylor Raintree County

Elizabeth Taylor received her first Best Actress nomination for playing Susanna Drake, a Southern belle marrying a yankee in Raintree County. Taylor was a huge star in the fifties and the sixties, so I really think that she received a couple of votes and was fourth or even third in the race. This was a typical first nomination for a star. She did not have a great role like Woodward and that's what gave Joanne the edge over the others. Liz won the Laurel award, though (just like she did every time when she was nominated for an Oscar, except for BUtterfield 8).

Raintree County is a really boring and meaningless Gone with the Wind wannabe. First of all, it's overlong. I mean, I get that it wanted to be an epic but somehow I wasn't that fascinated. Not even the technical part. I liked it more than some others, though. This movie is only famous for the tragic accident that happened to Montgomery Clift, which probably ruined his remaining short life. Sometimes, you can notice that his face sometimes is really stiff and he talks quite weirdly. Anyway, that's not the only reason why this one isn't his best performance.

I admit, I don't really like Elizabeth Taylor. Sure, she's beautiful but apart from Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, I cannot say any other performance of hers that really impressed me. Taylor's first three Oscar nominated performances are pvery much alike, if you look closely. There's a troubled, beautiful woman, who cries and screams sometimes and there's one huge, teary-eyed, hysterical monologue to secure the nomination. That's why Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf was such a surprise to everyone. It's so shocking and brutal compared to these sugary roles. Taylor proved there that she had real talent but filmmakers couldn't really find her real brilliance, I think. That's why her earlier performances might seem to be overacted and hammy.

Speaking of which, in Raintree Country, Liz gives a bit overacted and exaggerated performance as Susanna Drake. First of all, Susanna is not a particulary interesting character. She's such a cliché and it's up to the actress to inject some star power into it. Actually, Liz succeeded that way. Although this is not an amazing performance by any means, you just cannot take your eyes off Taylor. It can be her beauty but I think that there's something magnetic about her presence.

It's the technical part that is messy about her performance. Usually, I don't really care about the technical part and I prefer emotional acting but this time I just couldn't overlook her obvious flawed decisions. Liz uses all the clichés of this kind of character, the Southern belle (heavy, rather ridiculous accent, overacted mannerisms). Because of these weaknesses, you just simply cannot take this performance seriously. Even when she could be very good with emotions, her accent and mannerisms drag the scene down.

Susanna tricks Montgomery Clift's character into marrying her and when the truth about this is revealed, there's nothing happening. They are like "OK" and that's it. I would have wanted to see much more conflict between them because of this. The chemistry between Clift and Taylor is not that strong, either. It's visible that they like working together but there's no tension between them that could have set the screen on fire. They both become the movie. The filmmakers wanted to show so much and therefore, nothing is properly worked out in it.

Still, as I said, Taylor has her scenes in this movie. For instance, the one where they are looking at the remains of Susanna's old home. Taylor is actually quite strong there. For a while, her accent wasn't that annoying and there was some depth in this movie. And (as I said earlier in this review) there's the huge breakdown scene with the tears. Although it's not a really great one, it's worth mentioning because it was handled very well by Taylor. And she is also quite good when Susanna is at an asylum but that's nothing very special either. However, Liz is quite simply great in the end. Everything bad about this performance disappeared for a while and that was so great.

Still, this performance is a bit mixed. On the one hand, Liz's accent andmannerisms are incredibly annoying and she fails with the technical. On the other hand, there are also some great moments that I just cannot ignore. As I said, Taylor is not really amazing, but there's something in her that stays with me. It's still quite good work and something keeps resonating with me.

I decided for a 3.5 after all.

What do you think? Time for your last predictions! :)


Louis Morgan said...

She got a little lower than I expected

Final Predictions:
1. Magnani
2. Woodward
3. Kerr
4. Taylor
5. Turner

Anonymous said...

I love this performance! And how timely -- RIP to this great screen icon.