Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Samantha Morton in In America

Samantha Morton received her second Oscar nomination for playing Sarah, an Irish emigrant in Jim Sheridan's movie, In America. Morton's nomination was pretty much a shocker, something that happens rarely at the Oscar. I think I would have expected Scarlett Johannson or Uma Thurman to be nominated instead of her. Still, it was Samantha Morton who got in but I don't think she received many votes. I believe she was either fourth or fifth depending on how much the Academy lvoed Keisha Castle-Hughes.

In America, while it's not bad, it's not that great, either. Somehow I don't feel as if I've seen it. I mean I know the story and such but somehow I didn't get the whole thing. Still, I was quite moved sometimes, despite the sometimes clichéd story. I think the performances of the children are just excellent. They played their part with such naturality and charm and I feel that they would have deserved some kind of a recognition. Djimon Hounsou was the one who received an Oscar nomination in Best Supporting Actor. I think he was pretty good (certainly better than Benicio del Toro or Ken Watanabe).

Samantha Morton is most certainly a very interesting actress. I've seen people comparing her to Emily Watson and I might just have to agree. The type of acting they offer is quite similar though I feel there's a strong difference between them. Morton mostly plays women who seem to be very strange and nervous but playing a silent role, full of kindness and loveliness (Sweet and Lowdown, that's such an underrated, fun movie). Her character Sarah in this movie is the mix of strange and lovely.

OK, there's one huge problem with this performance (just like with the movie): I feel that I haven't even seen her performance. And there are two reasons for that. First of all, her part (to put it delicately) is quite thin and it's not developed at all in the screenplay. Second, she has very little screentime. Therefore, she doesn't look more than a supporting character. She doesn't have the force and the substance to be considered a true leading performance. It doesn't bother me that much if a supporting role gets nominated in leading as much as the contrary of it. Not at all. I feel that if a smaller role has a huge enough impact on the viewer and the story, it could be considered leading. But, alas, that doesn't apply to Samantha Morton here.

What really bothers me that this could have been such an incredibly effective performance had it been given more time. I felt that Morton was always in the background and the movie was never about her, really. I just wanted to see more of her as the character itself seemed to be very interesting. I mean she's a mother who lost her child and I felt that we should have seen more of Sarah's grief. There's one scene at the hospital where she's crying about her dead child and she cries and screams with her husband. Until then, I've never seen that much desparation and that otherwise excellently done scene felt out of place.

Moreover, Morton and/or the screenplay also could have done something with the self-sacrificing side of this character. I mean, this woman was a teacher and yet she sacrificed her career and worked as a waitress to let her husband look for a job as an actor. However, this aspect is barely mentioned even though it would have added to the drama and it would have made it much more interesting. The supportive wife is a bit cheap way to get the audience's love but even that would have been better.

What I want to point out as a positive thing is that Morton really nails the emotion of this character sometimes. At some points, she was really effective and touching and showed how great this performance really could have been. Again, this is another wasted opportunity.

So after all, 2003 offered some really weak Best Actress nominees and Morton was one of them. There were some points where I was minimally impressed but for most of the time I felt really nothing. Too bad, as this could have been something very interesting and moving and yet it became a little dreary and lifeless.

What do you think?


Louis Morgan said...

I agree, she was very unimpressive her, not bad, but certianly not special.

dinasztie said...

Yes, exactly.

mrripley said...

My problem with this performance is she is rather reactive,the other 4 main characters have scenes to themselves whereas morton always shares her best scenes with someone,it really is supporitng which is where i believe she was campaigned,there aren't enough moments to get us to know this woman,what did you think of paddy c,i would have given him a nom for actor in a lead role.

i think 2003 only offers 2 really viable worthy nominees.

dinasztie said...

I wouldn't give him a nomination.