Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Debra Winger in Terms of Endearment

Debra Winger received her second Best Actress nomination for playing Emma Horton, a woman having a very difficult life, an overbearing mother and an unfaithful husband in Terms of Endearment. In 1983, no one was stopping Shirley MacLaine from winning her overdue Oscar, not even her co-star, Debra Winger. But I think she got many votes, too and was second. I'm wondering if she had won had Shirley won earlier. I think she wouldn't have as they probably would have picked Jane Alexander. Or not?

I already expressed some of my feelings towards Terms of Endearment and I have to go on. I wouldn't have given this movie that many Oscars. The Best Adapted Screenplay was not very worthy, either. I probably would have picked Educating Rita or The Dresser, probably. John Lithgow gave a very nice performance as the sympathetic guy who begins an affair with Emma, however, I don't think that he was very worthy of his nomination.

Debra Winger is a notoriously difficult actress. She doesn't make very good relationships while working, in fact, most peolpe really disliked her. However, when you get two gigantic egos together (Winger and MacLaine), the outcome will be either a disaster or a total triumph. Fortunately for both ladies (and us), the latter came true at the Oscars. They were both nominated and they both seemed to have fun over the past.

Winger plays Emma Horton, who's the most dramatic character of Terms of Endearment. She got everything that made Terms of Endearment a typical 80s weepie: children, marital problems, adultery and cancer. Yes, Winger got the huge dramatic role that all the young actresses want. Interesting enough, it was Sissy Spacek who was planned to play the role. I guess the outcome would have been much different then (and Jennifer Jones as Aurora, wow, it would have been quite a big movie).

Debra Winger is a very interesting actress who can make roles like the one in An Officer and a Gentleman but Emma is a very different character. And I think she did justice with Emma: she took everything she got and gave a very proper and impressive performance. In the beginning, she looks a bit awkward but she really improves in time. Athough the way she developed Emma could have been a bit slower but I think she was quite good.

When she has scenes with Shirley MacLaine, it's easy to see who's the more talented actress of the two. It might be also the fact that Emma's character is much less entertaining than Aurora but I wasn't really, truly impressed by her. At least not constantly. Whenever you watch two performances in a movie and focus on them both, sometimes you just have to decide which one is the better. For me, it was Shirley. When they had their scenes together, I observed Shirley and not because I didn't care about Winger or liked her less. It's just that Winger' character got a bit one-dimensional compared to Shirley's.

However, as I said her performance really improves a lot. The scenes where we see her as a struggling wife as quite touching and very great. You just can't help it and just feel sorry for poor Emma. Winger showed quite well how Emma became tougher and stronger over the years. The way she realises the truth about her husband is played very well by Winger.

Also, her scenes after Emma realises that she has cancer are exceptional, espcially the one in New York, where she says her a big monologue to her friend. I think it's quite probably the best moment of hers in the whole movie. And after that, her goodbye scene to her children comes. To be totally honest, that scene was a bit too much working for the tears. Yes, it's a heartwrenching and unforgettable moment and the climax of the movie but as a result, the rest of the movie pales in comparision with it.

Still, I liked Winger as Emma. I may not be in awe of her as much as others, I can appreciate the merits of Winger's work. Although the performance starts out a bit boring, it improves in time and it becomes a very interesting one that has a great effect on the viewer. It might be the fact that I don't like this type of characters very much but I wasn't that impressed. Still, something keeps resonating with me, so I will go with
Without hesitation. Wow, deciding between her and Shirley will be tough.

What do you think?


Fritz said...

Winger is cleary superior to MacLaine for me.

Anonymous said...

While i think Winger was excellent,her role is such a cliche and i think Sissy Spacek (who was considered for the role)would've been at least equally good.On the other hand i can not imagine any other actress doing Aurora so faithful to the book.So i prefer MacLaine.

Louis Morgan said...

I liked her here, but like Maclaine not overly so.

joe burns said...

I really like Winger here, I think she excells so well with the part, but I really need to wait till I do this year so i can decide who's better..

Anonymous said...

Wow, you seem to be really lukewarm in your praise of her – that's not something I see often, people are usually overflowing with praise for this perf. I sort of understand your criticisms, though, even though I love Winger in everything she does!

Anonymous said...

Let's face it: it's easier to play kooky (Maclaine's role) than to play staight (Winger's). So Shirley gets all the showy, yelling stuff, and that puts Debra in the limelight. Winger's performance is much like Donald Sutherland's in Ordinary People: so finely understated that it becomes invisible, that the person is even acting. Shirley was, well, like Jack is Jack, Shirley.

Anonymous said...

How do you know that Deborah was not well liked-and by whom specifically? Its these kind of chinese whispers on the internet that really undermine peoples reputation, quite apart from being needlessly cruel.

El said...

MacLaine was allowed to overact because of her crazier lines. That's why she won.
Spacek and MacLaine look related though--joker-like, Dr-Seuss-ish features, while Winger was too pretty to be Maclaine's daughter. Have Spacek and MacLaine played relatives?