Sunday, August 21, 2011

Greer Garson in Madame Curie


Greer Garson received her fourth Best Actress nomination for playing Marie Curie, the famous scientist in the Best Picture nominated Madame Curie. One year after winning the Best Actress Oscar in 1942, Greer was nominated once again for playing a strong female character (and she would receive two other consecutive nods plus another one in 1960). I think there was a lot of leftover love for Greer Garson, that's why I believe that she was ahead of Joan Fontaine or even Jean Arthur. She basically recreated Mrs. Miniver, a character that people were crazy about at the time.

Madame Curie is an extremely dreary, uninteresting and shallow biopic about the Curies. I mean how can you make such a boring film from a quite interesting story. I felt they just wanted to do Mrs. Miniver once again and move the audiences with the inspirational lives of these people. Come on. Everything is very Hollywood here and I bet there's a great difference between reality and this movie. Walter Pidgeon gives one of the most boring and uninspired performances ever to be nominated for an Oscar. I mean he's obviously so bored and he seemingly doesn't give a sh#t about the movie.

And there's Greer Garson who (you may or may not know) is an actress that I love immensely. Many consider her performances dated and not too flashy but I'm not one of them. She has a very radiant and refreshing presence, which seems quite unusual for her era. Her acting is so natural and I especially appreciate that she never seems to be faking. All in all, I really love her (even in the often criticised Mrs. Parkington) and therefore I was really looking forward to Madame Curie.

Truth to be told, my hopes seemed realistic. Greer (an actress I love) plays Marie Curie, a very interesting strong female character and I was sure that Greer would be excellent in the part but, alas, she wasn't. At all. I don't really understand why but there wasn't a moment where I strongly felt Greer's usual wonderful charm that I'm always raving about. It's simply missing and that's quite shocking as I thought that no matter what if a performer has charm it always helps a great deal.

Marie Curie is a very rich character and I think a great actress can get a lot out of her character. However, despite her greatness, Greer was just not able to make her a fascinating character. Or was she really interesting at the first place? Playing scientists may not be that rewarding unless they have serious problems. Biopic performances are mostly applauded when we see scenes of devastation, addiction, singing, marital problems, violence and such things. You can see none of those things here since the Curies were quite ordinary people who happened to be scientists. They were, however, truly dedicated to their work and that's something that Greer did excellently. We can always see Marie's determination to solve problems and work on a better future.

The rest of her performance is just unremarkable. Personally, I would have expected her to get something out of the fact that Marie was obviously more talented than her husband and yet she had to live in his shadow in a way. Or just quite simply the fact that Marie was a woman and how she succeeded in a world of men. These are interesting things rarely discussed in this movie and everything connected to them is just insignificant and boring. All we see is how perfect and wonderful this marriage was and how well these people worked together. Well, I don't think that they never had big rows when experimenting. And then I got to the point: the unspectacular reaction to discovering a new element: I don't know how you feel but I would be much more enthusiastic if I changed the face of science. That might be just me, though. :)

However, I must admit that Greer is still far and away the best thing about Madame Curie (why do I always want to write Mrs. Miniver once again? :D) . You know, everything IS relative. On her own, she's nothing amazing but she's very good compared to the awful performance of Walter Pidgeon. When Pierre died I felt that it was a breath of fresh air to Greer's acting in this movie. Her breakdown with tears and her last speech remined me of the Greer that I love.

To sum up, I was quite disappointed by this performance as I expected way more of Greer Garson, a truly wonderful actress. She's trapped in a boring movie, which is the enemy of its on and she's sometimes overshadowed by the boredom of Walter Pidgeon. Under these circumstances, it's a very good performance with its problems.
What do you think?

6 comments:

Sage Slowdive said...

She really sucked here.

dinasztie said...

I don't think she sucked but this is definitely the weakest performance that I've seen from her.

Francesco said...

"I mean he's obviously so bored and he seemingly doesn't give a sh#t about the movie."

"I thought Command Decision and Madame Curie were my best. I still cherish that scene in Madame Curie when Pierre goes out to buy Marie jewelry" (Walter Pidgeon) :-))))

I find the movie very beautiful (gorgeous Franklin's job) and Pidgeon really moving ... but I was desapointed too by Garson, especially in the "serious and intellectual" scenes.

dinasztie said...

Then I obviously disagree with Mr. Pigeon to say the least. ;)

Louis Morgan said...

Although I did not hate her here, I really found her quite uninteresting.

earlady66 said...

I absolutely loved them both in this movie! It's one of my favorite Garson/Pidgeon movies. I don't understand your criticism at all!