Sunday, November 20, 2011

Katharine Hepburn in Summertime

Katharine Hepburn received her sixth Oscar nomination for playing Jane Hudson, a(nother) spinster, who spends her vacation in Venice and falls for a man in David Lean's movie, Summertime. 1955 was a very interesting field and given the fact that Anna won all the critics' awards, it's very hard to think about how much the Academy loved the other ladies. I guess Jennifer, Eleanor and Katharine were the ones who had the least chance, however, Katharine Hepburn was Katharine Hepburn and that might have given her the edge over the two other ladies or that might have been the reason why they didn't vote for her. Well, we'll never know for sure though it would be interesting to find out once.

Summertime is not the grand epic you would expect from the director of Lawrence of Arabia and The Bridge on the River Kwai, it's much more like the earlier works of David Lean though it's much less heart-breaking than A Brief Encounter, for instance. Summertime is very entertaining and that's the most I can really say about it. Although it's Lean's own favorite work, I can hardly see why. As I said, there's nothing really special about this film. It's very clear from the beginning that the biggest virtue of this film is the lead performance by Katharine Hepburn. 

As it has been said many-many-many times before, Katharine Hepburn had her very famous "spinster period" when she kept on playing spinsters who find true love when they have already given up on the whole thing. They start out hardened, bitter and shy but in the end, they turn out to be stronger and more self-confident. As I might have said this, I'm not a fan of Katharine Hepburn. I can see that she was a fantastic actress (boy, she really was) and a fascinating personality and yet I still don't get the overwhelming amount of love she gets. I do think she's a bit overrated. And that applies mostly to her famous spinster period, which I just cannot seem to warm up to. 

Or couldn't as (to my surprise) I really liked her performance as Jane Hudson. She makes her character very easy to sympathize with. Jane is a person whose only dream was to go to Venice, she saved up money for it and decided to enjoy her stay. However, things get complicated when she meets a man she eventually ends up falling in love with. The thing I dislike the most about Hepburn's spinster performances that the hardened women turn out to be beautiful violets in just a second and they also become really annoying once they experience love. However, Jane is a bit of an exception and that's probably why it's Katharine's most acclaimed spinster performance. The changes in Jane go gradually and Katharine carefully portrays the development of this character. As a result, she surprisingly avoided being as annoying as she was in other roles like this. 

Kate uses an incredible amount of charm to create Jane and that's probably the reason why it's so easy to sympathize with her. We know that it's not going to work out for her and yet we just keep on rooting for her happiness. She will go back to America, being a spinster secretary but in Venice, she's a beautiful woman who's in love, not only with the man she met, but also herself. In many ways, she's just like Pauline Collins' Shirley Valentine, an unhappy, dissatisified woman who goes on holiday to have fun but ends up finding herself. However, unlike Shirley's development, Jane's changes are not that showy and the character is overall much less exciting. I don't know if it's the fault of the writing, Kate, or the character's nature. I tend to say all. 

Still this doesn't change anything at all. Kate seemingly took this part very seriously (she even got a horrible eye infection because of this movie) and it pays off for sure. In each and every moment of the movie, she's simply adorable. There are lots of unforgettable scenes, like the one she goes to buy a goblet from Renato, the man who eventually becomes her lover. Hepburn portrayed the embarassment of Jane so wonderfully, I kind of felt that she would accidentally break that goblet. But I could mention the infamous moment when Jane falls into the canal. 

However, the most heartwrenching moments were yet to come. Jane gets a flower from Renato and it accidentally falls into the canal, too and Renato is not able to catch it. It's such a wonderful, rich symbol of Jane. She's the flower falling to the canal after the short term of happiness and satisfaction. Kate wonderfully shows the quite breakdown in Jane there: the thing that represented a moment of happiness for her was gone. It's ultimately a very sentimental moment and yet it becomes so heartbreaking because of Kate's excellent acting. 

To my utter astonishment, the ending turned out to be incredibly uplifting and much less soappy then I expected. It evoked the bitterness and sadness of Lean's earlier work, Brief Encounter. Kate was truly heartbreaking there, showing the disappointment of Jane and yet she also emphasised the fact that she became a much stronger and self-confident woman during her journey. 

In a role that's the least Oscar-baiting of her category, Katharine Hepburn excels. It takes some time to fully realize her greatness as Jane Hudson, but the outcomes are simply astonishing. Kate injected an incredible amount of charm into the character that made extremely loveable. And eventually, it's Kate's charisma and fascinating personality that makes her completely irresistable here. Her Jane is full of beauty and heart and that makes Kate's work so lovely. 
What do you think?


Fritz said...

I really enjoy her work here!

Anonymous said...

Great performance of Ms Hepbrun.

Daniel from Argentina

dinasztie said...

I'm glad you both like Kate. :)

Margaret Perry said...

This is a really awesome review. I love how your very clear you don't like KH, but you don't let that keep you from acknowledging her potentials. I totally sympathize with you about her "spinster films," though. They're really tough to swallow because she seems so darned DESPERATE all the time! SUMMERTIME is one of my favorite movies because, as you said, it's really uplifting without being lame.
Here's my recent post about SUMMERTIME - I'd really love your feedback!!1955.html