Thursday, July 21, 2011

Emma Thompson in Howards End

Emma Thompson received her first Academy Award for playing Margaret Schlegel, the heroine of E.M. Forster's in the Best Picture nominated adaptation of the novel Howards End. Right now, it seems to be that Emma Thompson's win was pretty locked, which is surprising for many reasons. Of course, the Academy has always had a thing for the British but it's still surprising that they gave her the win for a low-key performance over superstars like Michelle Pfeiffer. Emma Thompson's win is one of the most original picks by the Academy as they really seemed to be voting for the performance that they considered the best.

What a movie! I didn't use to be one of the major fans of Howards End but that might just change now. When I saw the DVD, I was hesitant to buy it but boy now I'm so glad that I did. This is such a beautiful, wonderful, fantastic, spectacular, gripping, excting, romantic and unforgettable film. Although I'm not much of a fan of the Ivory-Merchant duo, I was totally taken by this one. I'd say all the nominations were worthy the wins for Adapted Screenplay and Art Direction were richly deserved and I would have given it the win for Picture, Cinematography and Score. Vanessa Redgrave was very good in this role but hers was probably the only nomination that I wouldn't give out immediately.

Emma Thompson is an excellent actress, in my humble opinion, with a brilliant sense of humor. Her subtle and/or witty acting style always impresses me. She has a wonderful presence on the screen and she always becomes so magnetic despite the fact that her roles are mostly silent and she plays them in a very subtle way. I can see why some don't like her that much. She doesn't have huge breakdowns with tons of tears, she's not tearing her hear and such things. Her type of acting is very delicate, subtle and it contains so much underlying beauty.

In Howards End, Emma Thompson play Margaret Schlegel, a very intelligent woman who's destined to become a spinster but her life turns upside down when her good friend dies and her late husband offers Margaret to marry her. At the beginning of the film, we see the intelligence and the kindness of Margaret shining through the screen and Emma shows it just like she had to. Although in the beginning she's a bit weaker compared to the rest of her performance, she still does a great job at portraying the traits of Margaret. Her scenes with Vanessa Redgrave are excellent and it's wonderful to see two such great actresses together on the screen. I especially loved the Christmas shopping which turned out to be one of the best scenes in the movie.

Another interesting thing that I noticed is that Thompson portrayed Margaret as a woman who plays the role of the mother with her siblings. She's pampering them, conforting them and always tries to do the best for them. The self-sacrificing side of hers is excellently shown by Emma and it resulted in many really moving scenes.

Some are quite critical of Anthony Hopkins' performance as Henry Wilcox, Margaret's husband but I didn't notice the mistakes in his acting while he played with Emma. They really seemed to be enjoying working together and the result of their cooperation speak for themselves. I loved the quiet tension in the scenes where they were arguing with each other. Their big confrontation towards the end is excellently handled by both of them (I loved the way Emma Thompson's neck was twitching when Hopkins shouted at her).

However, Emma does wonders with the roles when also when she's alone and there's nobody else. She has no huge breakdowns but there's one scene where she cries in front of a mirror. A very short, underplayed sequence that had such huge effect on me that I really cannot forget it. It's probably one of the best subtly acted scenes in history. Emma avoids the trap of making this a very huge, loud scene as it really wouldn't fit the character.

Although Margaret Schlegel is a sort of unspectacular character, the performance of Emma Thompson in Howards End is nothing short of spectacular. Despite the little bit slow beginning, I found this work of hers fantastic and I was totally taken by her. It's a true testament to her greatness that the performance is still growing on me and I think so much about it. Excellent job, which gets an extremely strong

It was almost a 5 but I just compared her to some of the ladies and 4,5 seemed to be the most fair grade.

What do you think?


Malcolm said...

Definitely a fantastic performance!

I still think she'll win by looking at the competition.

I also have this crazy feeling that you'll actually like Deneuve more than the rest. Just a thought.

Fritz said...

I agree completely.

dinasztie said...

Well, I am madly in love with Catherine Deneuve's beauty, we'll see if I am able to fall in love with her performance in Indochine, too. :)

Anonymous said...

In my world emma has lots more noms than the academy gave her,my fave perf of hers is love actually her face when she sees the present her husband has bought is not a necklace is a cinema moment in acting for me,the film is crap but she spins beauty out of it.

1992 she owns best actress!!!

dinasztie said...

Anon: She's brilliant in Love Actually. That scene's heartbreaking.

Louis Morgan said...

She is quite good, although I have never found her to be amazing.

Michael Patison said...

I love this movie and I love this performance. For some reason I always find Emma to be great even if she wasn't necessarily so. For instance, in The Remains of the Day she didn't really have an incredibly complex character and didn't really have an Oscar scene, so to speak, but she pulled me in. I find her performance in Sense and Sensibility to be wonderful while many find it oddly unfocused. She's possibly my favorite actress alive today. Even her smaller roles, such as in An Education or the HP movies, are fantastic.