Monday, April 25, 2011

Diana Ross in Lady Sings The Blues

Diana Ross received her only Best Actress nomination to date for playing singing legend Billie Holiday. Ross' loss was quite a big loss and it has become kind of legendary. She had a very Oscar movie and she was seemingly quite certain that she would win her Oscar. Liv Ullmann actually wrote about Ross' reaction in her autobiography. Ullmann felt quite sorry for Ross who was crying on the shoulder of Shelley Winters. I am sure though that if it hadn't been for Liza, Diana would have won. But frankly, wasn't it obvious who was the better?

Lady Sings The Blues is... boring. It's really overlong, boring, dull and emotionless. I usually don't go for the movies about the tragic lives of tortured, drug-addicted singers. There are exceptions but this one is not one of them. Watching it was a real torture after a while and I had to force myself to go on watching it. The story is extremely loosley based on Holiday's life. The screenplay nomination is a joke, in my opinion. This movie has about as much to do with Holiday's life as Dreamgirl with Ross'.

Diana Ross is such a fantastic singer. Although I can't think of any of her songs right now, she's so talented. However, acting is much different from singing and I don't really like when singers want to show they can act. I just can't stand it. Ironically, that's the same that happened with Beyoncé when she played (kind of) Diana in Dreamgirls. When a singer plays a singer in a movie, it's almost always Oscar baiting.

I would love to say that it's not the case here but it is, unfortunately. Every single scene says "OSCAR! OSCAR! OSCAR!". However, the only thing standing between the Oscar and Diana is the movie itself. If the movie had been more faithful to Holiday's real life, things would have been much better and it would have landed the Oscar on the actress' lap. But could Ross have played Billie Holiday that way? Her acting talent did not even seem to be enough even for this dumber version of Billie.

I have to say that Ross didn't have the acting experience for this role. I mean playing Billie Holliday is extremely hard, in my opinion. Ross chose to underplay the role and in a way it was the right decision but sometimes that was almost fatal. There's a big scene where Billie is begging for the drug in the bathroom. I didn't feel that she was aggressive enough. I mean, I don't like overacting either (that one also would have ruined the scene), so they needed an actress who had enough talent to keep the balance. While I was watching Diana, I just kept wondering what miracles Diahann Carroll could have done with these role. I don't know why she came to my mind but I feel that she could have done a better, more complex job with this role.

What we have (and it's a positive thing) is the star power and charisma of Diana Ross that carries the movie all the way. She has the kind of personality that makes you always look at her. Her charm kept me going on and not giving up on her. And why exactly? Because she was good enough in some of her scenes. For instance, her big breakdown with her lipstick is actually quite effective and she has a great scene when she's walking and notices a dead man hanging on the tree. The scenes where Billie experiences racism are played very well by Diana and they are indeed memorable. However, once the drug addiction part comes in, everything is ruined and Diana's performance loses its strength.

However, I must say that the chemistry between Ross and Billy Dee Williams works very well and they make a good on-screen couple. The tension between them doesn't burn the screen down but they look quite good together.

I have very mixed feelings towards Diana Ross' performance as Billie Holiday. On the one hand, Ross is quite strong in some of the scenes and she has a lots of star power, which can be impressive, occasionally. On the other hand, I cannot overlook the fact that in some of the scenes she's very weak and she wasn't mature enough as an actress to play this part. They wanted her to do more than she could.
What do you think?

I know I keep changing the background day after day but I may keep it so. Whenever I feel down it will be light and when I feel good it's gonna be dark. :D


Dazzling Aura said...

whoa! if Diana Ross had reading this; she would wish to resurrect Shelley Winters. LOL!

dinasztie said...

One of my favorite comments ever. Thanks for this! :D You made my day.

Anonymous said...

I really don't know why everyone hates this performance so much, I thought she was brilliant and she showed an incredible range of emotions. I knew you wouldn't like it, and also, I don't know why people say the movie is bad or boring, I didn't think it was the best film of 1972 but it certainly wasn't terrible.

ThiagoTos said...

Wow! The new layout is amazing! Way much better, congrats :)

Dazzling Aura said...

@ Thiago


Anonymous said...

Diana's was clearly the better performance. Cabaret was clearly the better film. Quite a loss that both lead actresses don't have a healthier filmography. (Especially, Ross)

Anonymous said...

The movie was quite well done for a 1972 film. I saw it for the first time today; and though I knew a bit more of the grittiness of Holiday's tragic career, I felt Diana did a bang up job! A review should NOT blast the actress because the reviewer does not agree with the way the film is made. It is always best to havw someone who CAN ACTUALLY sing well to play a biopic of a great singer. I do NOT think we would have enjoyed Diane Carroll's portrayal in this with someone else's voice dubbed in. Ms. Ross deserved a WIN here !

Anonymous said...

Diana was clearly a better performance and everyone at the time knew that. Also this blog is full of contracdictions by the author. The category for the Oscar was BEST ACTRESS and Diana was the better actress whether the movie was good or not.. The category was not Best Film.

Anonymous said...

Very, very late to this game...but I think what I enjoyed the most about this movie was Diana Ross' very clever intonation of Billie Holiday's singular singing style. She suggests it without doing an impression or impersonation.

jontreydickson said...

Sounds like the queen who wrote this review is jealous of Miss Ross.he knows Diana Ross did very well for her 1st. Motion picture. Don't be a hater. I bet if he was reviewing a Cher, Barbara Streisand or Bette Miller move he would have nothing but praise for them