Saturday, August 6, 2011

Lee Remick in Days of Wine and Roses

Lee Remick received her only Oscar nomination for playing Kirsten, the alcoholic wife of another alcholic in Days of Wine and Roses. Poor Lee, she didn't have much of a chance of winning the Oscar. Honestly, there wasn't a prayer, was there? She might have received some votes and I'm sure many people loved her but in such a field with legends like Katharine Hepburn and Bette Davis, it was impossible for Lee to win. So she's pretty much the "fifth" nominee but not a filler in the true sense of the word.

Days of Wine and Roses is a really tough movie to watch. It begins as something very ordinary but eventually it turns out to be an incredibly heartbreaking and brutally realistic story. It's almost unbelievable that it was made by Blake Edwards who's mostly known for his comedies like Victor/Victoria and The Pink Panther. That being said, it is a surprising piece of work. Another major draw is that it's just as brutal for the second time. However, there's one reason why this movie is that great: Jack Lemmon gives the performance of his lifetime. Boy, oh boy! He's just... Unbelievable. This was the movie that made him my favorite actor and there's a reason for that. He gets my Best Actor vote (over Peter O'Toole). I can't watch the scene without tears when he says "My name is Joe Clay and I'm an alcoholic."

Once again, poor Lee Remick. This whole thing is not fair for her. She has so many drawbacks and setbacks that are impossible to overcome. No wonder that her performance is rarely discussed. First of all, she was nominated along with motion picture legends like Katharine Hepburn and Bette Davis plus two respected stage actresses. Second, she plays the minor co-lead alongside an actor who gives the performance of his lifetime. Third, she doesn't get that much screentime (though she gets the flashy, showy scenes needed by her). Can she overcome all these setbacks? Not really. Is she great? Yes.

Remick plays Kirsten, a woman who doesn't like alcohol in the beginning. However, she has a chocolate addiction. She is a potential alcholic and she quickly becomes one thanks to a brandy that tastes like chocolate and her boyfriend and later husband, Joe. Kirsten is (by all means) a victim. Horrible things happen to her and she cannot fight them. It's a really interesting parallel between the character and the performance. They both becomes victims of a man and major drawbacks. However, Lee, the actress, gets out of it succesfully unlike poor Kirsten.

You really see a development (?) in this performance. Although you cannot observe her changes as much as Jack Lemmon's character, you'll still pretty much see how much damage booze can cause in a life. It's always much more shocking to see a drunken woman since she loses all the tenderness inside her. We can see that here. First, Kirsten is a charming, beautiful and radiant girl and you are just not surprised that Joe fell in love with her. As the story goes on, she breaks down more and more and dives deeper and deeper into desperation. And I felt more and more sorry for her. I always love when actors don't make their characters miserable. However, here it was the very best choice made by Remick. Kirsten is nothing but a pathetic drunk, there isn't much else to say about her at one point. She's broken down, she loses everything she had.

Remick's chemistry (?) with Jack Lemmon is excellent and their scenes are really shocking and tell very much. Their fights seem so real and neither of them tries to outdo the other one. They really seem to be supportive of each other. Whenever they are drunk, they act like the same body and it was wonderful. Their last scene is just excellent. Remick delivers her monologue excellently and it was a really emotional and intense moment. Kirsten just cannot give up booze and this reality (as brutal as it is) just seems to be right for the movie. Her story doesn't go for a cheap happy ending and therefore it's just more realistic.

Although Lee Remick is overshadowed in many ways, she's just excellent as Kirsten, a pathetic woman, a real victim. Her story is very heartbreaking and you don't get any fun out of it but Remick's realism in this part is really impressive. A great performance that should be much more frequently talked about.

What do you think? (Sorry for my recent laziness with these posts but I had a lot to do)


Louis Morgan said...

Although in some ways overshadowed by Lemmon's terrific performance, she still is great in her own right.

dinasztie said...


Fritz said...

Yes, she's great.

Anonymous said...

Yes Lemmon was perfect but the film really needed her amazing performance as well to work, really strong work by two co-leads. I wonder what happened to your ratings (Meryls) I never see them anymore, are you not doing them anymore, did I miss the explanation? :)

Anonymous said...

All in all was more impressed with Remick than Lemmon. Sometimes less is more.

OaktreeLady said...

I was blown away with Lee Remick's performance in this movie. Her change from sweet young thing to hardened broad was so complete and gradual that it seemed not like acting at all.

I cried at Remick's monologue at the end and begged her to get help. You can only do that when you are watching your own computer screen at home.