Saturday, October 8, 2011

Vanessa Redgrave in Mary, Queen of Scots

Vanessa Redgrave received her third Oscar for playing the tragic queen of Scotland, Mary Stuart. I think Vanessa didn't have much of a chance of winning the Oscar (nobody had a chance next to Jane Fonda) but I think she got ahead of Julie Christie and Janet Suzman as Vanessa was very popular, she was Oscarless and she got a Globe nod (unlike the others). Still, she couldn't edge out Glenda as many must have compared her performance to Glenda's in this movie (many prefer her, actually) plus Glenda's work in Sunday, Bloody Sunday was even better. So there were many setbacks for Vanessa's win.

"This is the story of the fierce struggle between... THE RIVAL QUEENS". What can you expect from a movie that starts with this line? Even the beginning suggest that we are about to see a soap opera with two rivalling monarchs, something in the style of Dynasty with Glenda Jackson and Vanessa Redgrave instead of Joan Collins and Linda Evans. At the time, many criticised this movie for its screenplay and rightfully so. It really is ludicrous sometimes plus I did not feel that the fight between the ladies was very even. Elizabeth got the third of Mary's storyline and she wasn't given the depth she would have deserved. For me, she's a far more interesting character than Mary. Glenda is simply wonderful as Elizabeth and I almost wished that the movie was only about her but then I quickly realised that she had her own miniseries (If only I could get that!). Still, I don't know why I expected much from the director of Anne of the Thousand Days.

This is only my second Best Actress review of Vanessa Redgrave and although I would not say that I'm that acquainted with her works, I feel that she's a terrific, shining, radiant talent who can elevate any movie she's in. I just think about her scene with Jane Fonda in the café from the movie Julia and I am just enthralled by her wonderful, radiant presence. Even in movies like Morgan!, she's able to deliver something special and really unique. She's the perfect embodiment of the so-called strong female characters. It would be so absurd to see her as a girl to be saved in an action flick. That's not Vanessa. I always imagine her as a tragic but ultimately poetic heroine who delivers uplifting monologues and breaks the viewer hearts while giving treats to the mind, too.

All these qualities make her the best choice for the character of Mary Stuart the dream role of many actresses. I think everything indicates a great performance coming from this movie and that's probably why I was so damn disappointed. There we go, I said it. Disappointment is the perfect word to describe my general feeling towards this performance. I was shocked to see how lost Vanessa was in this movie. This was almost completely the fault of the director who really didn't seem to care that much about the performances (that was also the case with Anne of the Thousand Days). He was pretty much satisfied when the actors delivered their long monologues loud and effectively. That's what results in overacting or total weakness. I think Glenda would have been lost, too had she not previously played the role of Elizabeth. For her, this one must have been very easy and she didn't have to make that much of an effort, she must have just recreated her legendary performance. However, Vanessa should and could have done far better, had it been for the advices. The same thing happened to Vanessa that would later be the case with Glenda Jackson in Hedda. The movie dragged her down.

Naturally, Vanessa doesn't benefit from the screenplay's varied badness. She gets very cheesy and sentimental lines that prevent her from making Mary a really interesting character. Although the movie shows some indecent things that Mary does, she's still very much like a complete saint despite the fact that she's just as much of a bitch as Elizabeth. Plus, if you're expecting delicious, entertaining catfights, you're not going to get them until very-very late into the movie and those scenes are not the best, either (in that way). However, I felt that the two actresses had a magnficent effect on each other. Whenever they are shown together, it's like a breath of fresh air in the film. Although Glenda sticks out for me more, Vanessa was really outstanding in those scenes (minus the moment where she wants to beat Glenda from the top of the horse, that one's ridiculous).

The highlights of the character are those scenes before (and during) the execution of Mary and Vanessa manages to solve them quite properly. I think they would have worked better on the stage (in fact, it would have been brilliant there), here they seemed to be a bit theatrical and over-the-top. Still, Vanessa is very good there and her final encounter with Elizabeth is just as memorable. But again: who do I prefer? Glenda. It might seem that I am hard to impress (not true) but I always heard the little devil in my head: "Glenda is so much better! She should have been nominated!"

Although I cannot deny that Vanessa's radiant presence impressed me, I cannot say the same thing about her performance as Mary Stuart. For some reason, I felt that she was lost in this character despite the fact that she completely understood this character. I had no connection to the character whatsoever but there's still something about Vanessa that holds me back from being really negative about her here.

What do you think?

My plans: Janet next Friday and Jane next Saturday! :) 


Alex in Movieland said...

wow, a 3 1/2 from you is like a 2 from me :) so you're not a fan.

But I agree that Glenda steals the show here. Had they had proper campaign strategies back then, I'm sure they would've pushed Glenda in Supporting (which seems more natural & wise) and she would've given Cloris Leachman some serious competition.

PS: I had the miniseries a couple of years ago, but deleted it :P Tried to watch it, but gave up. Glenda seemed fine, but it's filmed like a very low budget play, which feels frustrating.

dinasztie said...

Well, I also think they would campaigned her supporting. But I guess she was too respected for that. She got a nod after all, though and for the right movie. :) And she didn't really care. :D

Fritz said...

I think I liked her a bit more but not too much...

And I am glad you liked Julie but it's clearer and clearer that Jane will smash the comptetition. I've just seen Klute again yesterday to give Jane another chance but I stay with my opinion.

dinasztie said...

Fritz: :-(

Anonymous said...

@ Alex in Wonderland:
"...she would've given Cloris Leachman some serious competition."
I would say she would have given Ellen Burstyn and Cloris Leachman some serious competition.