Saturday, August 27, 2011

Faye Dunaway in Network

Faye Dunaway received her third Best Actress nomination and only Oscar to date for playing Diana Christensen, a "heartless young woman"in the Best Picture nominated movie Network. Although nowadays it seems like an easy win, Faye Dunaway wasn't the overwhelming front-runner for the Best Actress award. In fact, according to some sources, Liv Ullmann was the favorite to win (also because of the Scenes from a Marriage controversy). Even Faye seemed to be very surprised as she said in her speech that she didn't expect to win. However, if we look at the race, this win seems to be so obvious. She was the only true Hollywood star of the bunch and it was a real Best Actress crowning moment.

Network is a pretty great film. It's kind of shaky sometimes and the storyline with the communist group is a bit useless and pointless. Still, it's excellently written by Paddy Chayefsky (deserved Oscar for him) and directed by Sidney Lumet (a deserved nomination). The story is very interesting and kind of depressing as you are faced with the horrible power of television. The movie is highly critical of this phenomenon. I wonder how this movie would be nowadays. The actors are great in their parts though I must say that everyone was a bit too much. They got difficult part and unfortunately nobody was able to avoid overacting.

The one who succeeded the most, in my opinion, is Faye Dunaway, the big star of the 1970s. Honestly, I can't imagine a better choice for this part. Her nervous persona totally fits the character and she's a damn beautiful, seductive woman and that added a lot to this part. If I picture other actresses in this part. Nobody could match over-the-topness with a certain distance like Faye Dunaway and nobody is able to create a more disturbing and chaotic atmosphere than her. Yes, she can be very unpleasant on the screen and that's probably why Mommie Dearest was such a flop (no, I haven't seen it yet, I'm just speculating. :D)

Diana is a ruthless, "cut the bullshit" type of woman who's not very good at being a good human being but she's damn great at her job. She represents the pushy, overachiever generation in this movie who gradually the honest old folks. Nowadays, if you would take a look at Diana's Facebook page, next to favorite quotations you would see: "All I want out of life is a 30 share and and a 20 rating." If I think about it, Diana is kind of a cliché but I felt that was the whole point about this movie. We saw people like her so many times but I think nobody was better in such a part than Faye.

Paddy Chayefsky wrote some really great parts for actors but they were all so incredibly difficult, especially the lines. One wrong step and it's all gone. As I said, everyone fell into the trap of overacting in this movie, except for Faye who had the most difficult job to do. Everything was working against her and her task was to make us hate Diana and yet we have to feel pity for her. Another tough thing was that she didn't have as much screentime as such hard role would normally require. She really had to concentrate all her talent into the scenes and if I'm totally honest, she didn't always make it. It's not her fault but sometimes she was a bit overshadowed by the other loud scenes with Peter Finch or the marital problems of William Holden.

Still, Faye was able to get a lot out of this character and personally, I was totally blown away by some of the scenes. The first one that really stuck in my mind is the one where she tells her lover to stop kissing her because she had to concentrate on the screen. An excellent moment in it weirdness. Another memorable sequence is where she watches Howard Beale breaking down on live television while eating a sandwich. Faye really nailed the irony of these moments and it was just wonderful to see her whenever she was on the screen.

However, her famous breakup scene blows the others away. That was once again incredibly hard to do but she totally nailed it (and outdid William Holden, in my humble opinion). The way she switched from being loud to being broken-down and silent is just brilliant and unforgettable. She runs through a wide range of emotions and she's a real treat to watch as a result.

Faye Dunaway is just fantastic as Diana Christensen, in my opinion. Although I would be a little bit hesitant to call her amazing, her greatness is undeniable. She nailed all the aspects of Diana, she turned this incredibly difficult character into gold. Truly memorable work by a great actress at her peak.
What do you think?


Anonymous said...

She's crazy good...

Fritz said...

great performance in a fantastic movie.

Anonymous said...

I'm disappointed because I would give her a 5 easily, she's perfect and so is the film, I really liked your review because you certainly highlighted the best parts of her performance, especially the breakup in which she showed depth and vulnerability like she had never done in the film before. I guess Ullmann or Spacek will take this!!

ThiagoTos said...

I really like this movie and Faye's performance.

However, I couldn't agree more with your opinion here: "everything was working against her". Such a pity.

I guess she'll be 3rd in your rank.

Louis Morgan said...

She was great, and I would probably give her a five.

joe burns said...

I think she's fantastic here, her character is largely ruthless and cruel for most of the time, but Faye is so good at it, it never becomes one-dimensional. A 5 from me.