Sunday, May 1, 2011

Maggie Smith in Travels with my Aunt

Maggie Smith received her third Oscar nomination for playing Augusta Bertram, an extremely eccentric woman in George Cukor's movie. Poor Maggie didn't have any chance of winning in 1972. She was the only previous winner, the reviews of Travels with my Aunt were quite mixed and I guess everyone was mad or at least disappointed that it wasn't Katharine Hepburn that they saw on the screen. So, I guess Maggie Smith was fifth just like in (I think) 2001. Maggie didn't even attend the ceremony in 1972.

Travels with My Aunt is a movie that I wouldn't recommend even for George Cukor's most dedicated fans. His directing style seems so dated compared to the innovative, exciting movies of the seventies. Had this movie been made a couple of years earlier, it would have been a bigger hit. Or not. This story fits a novel much more than a movie, I think. I don't see how this movie beat Cabaret for Best Costume Design. I really don't. The score is quite good, though. The ending is, however, incredibly predictable. At least, I found it out in the first ten minutes. But that's more of the fault of the writing, I guess.

I so love Dame Maggie Smith. I'm not afraid to say that she's probably the greatest British actress. She's always so utterly brilliant in both comedy and drama. She could play over-the-top, snobbish characters like no one else in this world. This women are reluctant to give up luxury or things they got used to. In Private Function (her greatest performance ever), her character says something like 'I want a future that at least lives up to my past'. In Gosford Park, she's a woman who has to almost beg for some money. All of Maggie's characters have a very dramatic side and it's always so great to see her reveal this side. She does it like flower blossoms. First, you wonder how the ending is possible and then it comes unexpectedly and it's all so beautiful.

In Travels with My Aunt, she plays a somewhat similar character, Aunt Augusta. This time, however, her character feels quite out of place on the screen. Everything is so modern and she wears these gigantic hats, furs and so on. Naturally, this character is ver over-the-top, so it needs a bit exaggerated performing by the actress who plays her. Maggie did so and was very over-the-top and by this she gained quite an amount of haters. This nomination is one of the least liked ones in history? It's true that it's one of Maggie's lesser effort but one of the worst nominations ever? Oh no.

I kept wondering what Maggie thinks of this performance of hers. For me, one word sums up the whole thing: entertaining but nothing much more. I guess that was the intention of Dame Maggie with it. To entertain and not harm anyone. And she did it perfectly. Her performance starts hilariously. Her out-of-tune (and rhytm), horrible singing is just wonderfully funny and amusing.

Kill me, but I felt that Maggie's exaggerated mannerisms worked for this character. I mean, how do play Aunt Augusta subtly? You just can't and shouldn't. All the decisions of Maggie worked quite well. I mean all she had to do was be funny and amusing and she was indeed. Aunt Augusta is very artificial but Maggie wasn't. Her eccentric behaviour is excellently played by the brilliant Dame Maggie.

But I keep asking myself: is this enough from the great Dame Maggie Smith? Not really. I always kept wanting more and more. And not because it's so great that I couldn't get enough. I missed Maggie's usual dazzling presence and despite the fact that I was entertained quite well, I still wanted more. Still, I have to say that Dame Maggie Smith is very entertaining and amusing as Aunt Augusta Bertram. I may have wanted more but she was quite good anyhow.

What do you think?


Anonymous said...

This is my bet:

5. Diana Ross
4. Maggie Smith
3. Cicely Tyson
2. Liv Ullmann
1. Liza Minnelli

Good review, I agree with you ;-)

dinasztie said...

Anonymus: I'm glad you agree. However, according to the rules, I cannot accept your predictions. However, if you're right (and you are), I'll mention you.