Friday, April 29, 2011

Cicely Tyson in Sounder

Cicely Tyson received her first and to date only Best Actress nomination for playing Rebecca Morgan, a poor woman in Martin Ritt's Best Picture nominated movie, Sounder. 1972 is such a confusing year. I think everyone had at least a fair chance of winning (except for Maggie) and Tyson was the critics' favorite along with Liv Ullmann. I think the third place was between them. Liv won the Globe but Tyson was the American nominee and she played in a movie of social importance. Who knows? But Liza was not as unbeatable as she may seem sometimes.

Sounder is considered a very important movie. And it is really great but it's also a little bit clichéd. Martin Ritt's movies are always trying hard to give some message. He's a filmmaker very much like Stanley Kramer though Ritt is less 'obvious'. Sounder is really the story of David Lee, who comes of age during the Depression when his dad is sent to prisoned. Kevin Hooks is really the lead of the story and I think he's good enough to carry this film. Paul Winfield's lead actor nomination is quite baffling. First, he's so supporting and he's not even that great. He's quite good, though.

Cicely Tyson is a very famous actress but I don't really know her movies. I really liked her cameo in one of my favorite movies, Fried Green Tomatoes but I cannot say any of her other roles that I remember. I guess the fact that she mostly works for television prevented me from seeing much of her. Still, what I saw of her is most certainly impressive. She seems to have a very unique presence that certainly got me.

In Sounder, Tyson plays Rebecca Morgan, a woman who has a lot to worry about in her life. She's a very sympathetic lovely woman, who wins the sympathy of the viewer because she's very real and you believe everything she does. Such characters can be so great in supporting roles but leading is a bit different. However, Tyson is borderline supporting. She has more time and more to do than Winfield but it's not all that much. If this one had been campaigned in supporting, I think Tyson would have stood a better chance. Or is she leading after all? That's a tough question. David Lee is the central character but Rebecca is also a key character in a way. I can easily see why people consider her leading. She's really the heart and soul of the movie.

Sometimes Rebecca is just sitting, standing and (mostly) working in the background while everything else is happening. Still, there's something about Tyson that is magnetic and you look at her even when she doesn't have an interesting scene. In fact, none of her storylines are particularly interesting and yet Cicely injected so much beauty and naturality into them. I felt that each and every movement of hers was real and there was nothing really acted. Cicely really did become Rebecca Morgan, this hard-working mother and wife trying to keep going.

Occasionally, Tyson's performance is incredibly beautiful. The scene where her husband returns is a simply brilliant moment and the rawness of Cicely's acting is wonderful. That scene is so full of emotions and I was totally taken and moved by it. The way she was running and screaming was so heart-breaking and Tyson played those moments terrificly. I'd say it's her best scene, hands down.

However, I have the troubling feeling that Cicely Tyson should have been given much more and then she would have been truly incredible. Although she's always great to watch, the insignificant parts do not become more significant because of her. It's not really her fault but her whole achievement suffers from it and I feel quite sorry about that.

Still, I have to say that Cicely Tyson gives a beautiful performance as Rebecca Morgan. Tyson adds real emotional depth to this (tiny bit) standard character. Her unique, very interesting presence, her great acting choices result in truly great work. Had she been given more to work with, she would have got my vote for this year, rather easily. However, my admiration for her is still great.
A very strong 4,5. Really great work.

What do you think?

1 comment:

Louis Morgan said...

Well I thought she was good, but her role was a bit limited for her to be that good. I thought she was supporting as well, less supporting than Winfield, but supporting nonetheless.