Thursday, May 5, 2011

Jane Alexander in Testament

Jane Alexander received her fourth (and to date last) Oscar nomination for playing Carol Wetherly, a woman who has to take care of her family without her husband who got lost during nuclear bombing in the movie Testament. It's really interesting to think about Alexander's chances of winning for Testament. This was her fourth nomination but she wasn't really the overdue one because Shirley MacLaine was way ahead to win, plus Alexander was the only nomination for Testament. I guess Alexander was third or fourth or even fifth. I have no idea.

Testament is a movie that is both too depressing and too soft. First of all, it's a bit too short and it doesn't give enough time to all of the characters. It seemed to me as if the writer only wanted to create huge and very hard-hitting scenes and did not care about building the whole story up. For instance, there are really interesting characters about whom we don't get to know enough. We just see them pass by and that's it. Too bad.

Jane Alexander is not one of the most popular Oscar nominees. In fact, many of her nominations are criticised nowadays. Personally, I quite like her and yes I even liked her in All the President's Men. I wouldn't say that she's a favorite of mine but I like her. And when I first saw Testament, I was totally blown away by her, especially the huge scenes.

I guess this is a performance that is much less mindblowig for the second time because you know what to expect from it. I was quite worried about that when I did Natalie Portman's profile for Black Swan. However, the second look at Alexander in Testament wasn't that great. That doesn't mean, though, that I didn't like her, it's just that my appreciation has cooled a bit.

Carol Wetherly is not a very interesting person, she's just an ordinary housewife and mother who's concerned about very ordinary things. That being said, there's nothing really extraordinary about her. We hear her thoughts as Carol has a diary and Alexander narrates the movie after a while and it's most certainly done very well by her.

During the movie, Carol should loose her mind gradually and that's something that I didn't really see in Alexander's performance. I mean I saw big meltdowns like the one when she was shouting "God damn you!". I mean that could work but did they think that people hadn't seen Planet of the Apes. I mean come on. Alexander even had the same gestures as Charlton Heston. It was a bit embarassing.

Other than that, Jane Alexander is quite great. What I loved the most about her is the she showed so many aspects of a mother's love. Sometimes she's angry, sometimes she just feels like dancing with her son (which is by the way the best and most honest moment of the movie because of its naturality). Alexander was just wonderful in these scenes, always remaining believable and realistic. There isn't a a sentimental or soappy moment in her performance and that's really impressive.

I guess the fans of this performance (like I was) mostly love her big scenes, which are indeed quite harrowing. SPOILER ALERT! After a while, people start dying in her town, including two of her children. The way Alexander portrayed the grief is just extraordinary. That teddy bear scene might be a bit over-the-top but I think it worked in the context of the movie. However, the one where she prepares her daughter's body for the funeral is very haunting. It's a quiet and ver heavy moment that's astonishing. SPOILER OFF!

There's Alexander's famous monologue about making love and that's excellently delivered by her. It's a really emotional moment, mostly because of its simplicity and honesty. And the communication between Alexander and Roxana Zal (who plays her daughter) was just brilliant. I really believed that they were mother and daughter.

To sum up, there are fantastic scenes in this performance of Jane Alexander but the overall impact is a bit mixed. This work is a bit incoherent and the character could have been developed better. It's the screenplay's fault mostly but Jane Alexander couldn't avoid all the traps set by the writing. Still, some astonishing moments really make up for the weaker ones.
I was tempted to go higher but I have to be stricter.

What do you think? It's time for the final predictions! :)


Louis Morgan said...

I have not watched this.

This looks like one that will be incredibly hard to predict:

1. Walters
2. Streep
3. Alexander
4. Maclaine
5. Winger

dinasztie said...

It's gonna be incredibly hard to rank them. :)

Anonymous said...

I love Jane Alexander but this performance is just so...dreary.

joe burns said...

My guess is:

1. Meryl 2. Julie 3. Shirley 4. Jane 5. Debra

Fritz said...

I've seen her today for the first time and I really, really liked her.

dinasztie said...

Fritz: That was my first reaction to her but now I didn't like her that much.