Saturday, April 23, 2011

Kate Winslet in Little Children

Kate Winslet received her fifth Oscar nomination for playing Sarah Pierce, an unhappy married woman having an adulterous affair with a married man in the movie Little Children. I think it was this the loss which made Kate say that was enough, it's nice to be nominated but it would be great to win. And this was the time when the world started to think the same. She didn't even have a prayer to win alongside Helen Mirren and Meryl Streep or even Penélope Cruz, probably. She was probably like Michelle Williams, a solid fourth.

Little Children is quite a weird movie. The first time I saw it, I was blown away by it but this time I was much less enthusiastic. It works with very cheap tools sometimes and it can be quite manipulative. Moreover, why did they need that narrator? He had this soft, deep voice, which became ultra soft and ultra deep when there was a very emotional moment. So the screenplay that I loved the most for the first time was a bit of a failure this time around. Not a bit of, actually. Jackie Earle Haley is, however, brilliant and I think he would have deserved to win the Best Supporting Actor Oscar in that weak field.

Kate Winslet is a fantastic, extremely talented actress who might have annoyed me when she was (ahhem) campaigning for her Oscar (in time, I really understood her and now it doesn't really bother me). She's not exactly beautiful but there's something so grabbing about her. She has a very unique and luminous presence which can elevate silly little comedies like Holiday and make them highly entertaining. And her roles are so different (I believe that she said that she liked it this way) and even her performances.

Bohumil Hrabal's book, Cutting It Short begins with the sentence "I am Madame Bovary." It's a hilarious but very bitter book about a woman, Maryska who's desperate to be free and have fun on her own. Little Children is a somewhat similar one with Sarah Pierce/Kate Winslet as Madame Bovary/Maryska. Sarah is trapped in a boring life which doesn't fit her personality. She's restless, impatient and bored, above all. Kate Winslet added this feeling so much to Sarah and despite the fact that she's very unlikeable, you actually care about her.

I used to be quite a hyper about this performance but just like my admiration for the film itself, my love cooled (though to a lesser extent). Kate Winslet is naturally brilliant when she's given enough space and the movie focuses on her. Her luminous self adds so much to the movies (I'm saying Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind, her best work, as an example). In Titanic, I said that Kate became the victim of the epic movie, the stunning visuals. In Little Children, Kate became the victim of the director's desperate and failed attempt to look artsy. One just cannot really focus on Kate because the movie is so mesmerized by itself. Poor Kate, she had so much potential with this role and she could have blown all the other ladies of 2006 away had it been for a better movie.

Kate's chemistry with Patric Wilson works very well even though she's seemingly way more talented than most of the cast combined. They are a very unlikely couple and yet they somehow look quite good together. The stupid, obvious flaws of the screenplay hold her back so much. I mean it's such an obvious scene where she's talking about Madame Bovary but Kate does great in it and yet her greatness pales in comparision with the flaw of the movie.

Still, I would be so unfair if I didn't praise her obviously brilliant scenes like when she's spying on her lover and she hides behind the wheel and then she starts crying hysterically and I was totally blown away there. It's such an unlikely and yet very realistic reaction, I just loved it. Moreover, the scenes in the end were handled perfectly by Kate. She brilliantly showed Sarah's desperation and hope.

So, to sum up, this is a great performance by the great Kate Winslet but I just embrace her because the movie was between me and her. Kate shows Sarah's emotions extremely well and she has some mindblowingly great scenes and yet the whole thing becomes uneven because she's overshadowed by the movie itself. Great work but not as brilliant as I used to think.
What do you think? Time for your last predictions! Note: before you predict, consider that I changed Helen's grade. I'm so sorry for my weakness with the grades. I might started grading them only at the time of the final conclusion and then add the grade to the review afterwards.


Louis Morgan said...

She was good, but I guess I wasn't amazed by her either. And I think that soft voiced narrator probably should not have called her boyish, I mean come on.


joe burns said...

I don't agree, I thought she was fantastic, my 2nd favorite.

I like the movie a lot too..