Julie Christie received her third Best Actress nomination for playing Phyllis Mann, a former B movie actress in Afterglow. 26 years after her nomination for McCabe and Mrs. Miller, Julie was back in the race. She even won Best Actress from the New York Film Critics, which seems to really be in love with her. Still, I feel she was the only one in the race who didn't have a prayer of winning that year. She was the only previous winner plus her nomination was a miracle itself, I think.
Afterglow is horrible, horrible and oh yeah, horrible. It's the worst Oscar nominated movie I've seen since Gloria (for a while I thought it would top even that). I think the filmmakers that they were making something very artsy and fashinable but instead it's one huge flop. I haven't seen such a failure for a while. The soundtrack of the movie is so damn annoying and it doesn't fit the movie. I always felt that this movie was a failed attempt to create an Altman-movie (who was BTW the producer). Moreover, the actors give laughable performances. Nick Nolte is as awful as ever, Lara Flynn Boyle is astonishingly horrible, not to mention Johnny Lee Miller. So, no, this movie didn't work with me at all.
In such an awful cast and movie, you would expect a brilliant actress like Julie Christie to elevate the material a little bit. To tell the brutal truth, she doesn't and yet she's the shining light in this mess, which I won't call a movie. Julie Christie is an astonishingly beautiful and superbly talented actress who has such radiation that it's almost toxic. I would say that she's one of the most beautiful actresses ever (if not the one). Her beauty is so superior and she's so great in every possible way.
The screenplay of Afterglow is simply awful and Phyllis is one of the weirdest characters I have ever seen. She's a broken down, unhappy, former B actress who doesn't get much joy out of life, expect for some of her old movies she watches on her telly. Her life (like Afterglow) is a mess, she has to live with a disgusting man and she has to listen to his snore every night. In short, Phyllis is very unhappy and she's longing for some happiness.
The one thing that really bothered me was that I never really understood this character. I don't get her motives, her emotions and Julie Christie couldn't really give much more to the role than the screenplay. She is very interesting for sure and yet I never got very engaged by Christie's performance even though everything was there for me to like her. Although she had that radiation that I'm mad about and she nailed some of the scenes, there wasn't a moment when I was able to honestly say "OMG! She's terrific!".
I would expect such a character to always reminisce about her days of glory and yet it's not there in Christie's performance. It's no problem at all, don't misunderstand me. Actually, I was very happy that Christie didn't make Phyllis a very standard has-been. There was a kind of depth in Phyllis that I love and yet it wasn't enough somehow. One word perfectly sums up this word: lacking.
Julie Christie's chemistry with the male actors doesn't even exist at all but I must say that it wasn't really Christie's fault. It had much more to do with the horridness of the two guys than Christie's acting as she did everything possible to make this movie work and yet everything and everybody else in the movie dragged her down so much. Had she been given more to do with the character, she could have been way better. But there's a scene where Christie is actually laughable: at the very end, she cries hysterically and it was a really ridiculous moment. I don't even want to think about it because it cracks me up so easily.
So, to sum up, I'm not one of the fans of Julie Christie in Afterglow. She has some nice moments and she nails to emotional scenes to a certain extent but it's not enough to win me over. I really missed the wildness or the subtlety of her other great performances. But the fact that she wasn't great is mostly due to the horrid movie. Still, she's not great.
I was quite generous.
What do you think?