Monday, May 2, 2011

Shirley MacLaine in Terms of Endearment

Shirley MacLaine received her sixth and to date last Oscar nomination for playing Aurora Greenway, a very complicated widow and mother in the Best Picture winner Terms of Endearment. MacLaine's win was quite secured, I think even though with hindsight it looks a very tight race. Her triumph was something that has to come every once in a while. That was the case with Susan Hayward (ironically, she beat MacLaine), Susan Sarandon and Kate Winslet. All these ladies lost to many times to be ignored once again. I guess if Julianne Moore or Annette Bening get nominated once again, they would win. The presenters (Liza Minnelli and Rock Hudson) did not even try to hide that they were rooting for Shirley. But I guess it was just more natural that way.

Terms of Endearment is an interesting case. At least with me. It's very much like Driving Miss Daisy. For the first time, I was totally taken by the emotions and it blew me away but this time I was a bit more sceptical and I felt that it was quite boring sometimes. It's a typical 80s weepie, slightly different from the movies like Love Story. James L. Brooks' Best Director win over Ingmar Bergman is an outrage, in my opinion. Jack Nicholson gives a very fun (almost cameo) performance but I'm not sure of he totally deserved the Oscar. But more on the movie on Winger's profile.

Shirley MacLaine is an actress that I don't really like but my dislike never really influences me (at least not to such an extent as it does with, say, Joanne Woodward) because I actually always enjoy her performances. It's just that I'm not always totally taken over by her. But what can you do when you see a performance of hers that's universally loved and respected? As Aurora Greenway, she gave a very huge and quite over-the-top performance, which serves her movie quite well (Or does it make the movie?).

I guess the immense love the surrounds the performance has very much to do with the character of Aurora Greenway. Debra Winger got the big dramatic moments but I would argue on who got the juicier and baitier role. Winger's Emma is the character that you sympathize with, the one you feel sorry for but ulitmately it's Aurora who gives the most fun. She's the most entertaining thing about the movie and she holds it together. She's the mother tiger, a lion, a true predator who can be incredibly grumpy sometimes.

When you get a really entertaining, amusing character, it's not very difficult to excel or fail. Fortunately, MacLaine achieved the former as she gives a really great performance as Aurora Greenway. First of all, I feel that MacLaine is the best when she acts in a comedy, so the funny parts are all done incredibly well by MacLaine. In 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, I read that the chemistry between MacLaine and Nicholson is so great and they are both so fantastic that it almost ruins the movie. And I have to admit that I don't agre completely. However, I also have to admit that MacLaine's scenes are all very dynamic and fun.

Also, the chemistry between Nicholson and her is just perfect. Their scenes truly rock and they seem to be parts of another, better movie. So it's no wonder really that many think that they are both perfect.

Furthermore, the really crucial scenes with Shirley and Winger are also excellently handled by Shirley and the fight-and-make-up relationship between them is astonishing. The two ladies had notorious fights during the filming and everyone thinks that they really payed off. And they really did. There's always so much tension between them and it's just great. OK, don't expect something like Autumn Sonata, but still. They are wonderful together. And yes, the "GIVE MY DAUGHTER THE SHOT!!!" scene is fantastically acted by Shirley.

However, something really keeps me from totally embracing this performance. On the one hand, it's exceptionally entertaining and fun but somehow I felt that she was too overwhelming after a while and I became quite tired of her. And yes, she became quite boring after a while. I guess many disagree but I think that Shirley MacLaine becomes boring in this movie eventually.

Still, I have to say that Shirley MacLaine is just excellent as Aurora Greenway in Terms of Endearment. Although I'm not as impressed by her some many others, I like her performance very much and I found her exceptionally entertaining. I have my problems, unfortunately but the overall effect of it is quite positive.

What do you think?


Anonymous said...

This performance is one that I found to be really fun and entertaining, if not a truly great achievement. Winger definitely has the more resonant role.

My predictions:

1. Meryl Streep
2. Debra Winger
3. Jane Alexander
4. Shirley MacLaine
5. Julie Walters

Louis Morgan said...

Well that certainly threw my predictions. I liked her, but not overly so.

New Predictions
1. Winger
2. Streep
3. Alexander
4. Walters
5. MacLaine

Anonymous said...

Perfect performance. Just brilliant.

Fritz said...

The right grade for her.