Julie Andrews received her third Oscar nomination for playing Victoria Grant, a struggling soprano who pretends to be a drag queen to get a job. Julie also won a Golden Globe for her performance, which was kind of a comeback for her. That being said, I don't think that she was a serious contender for the Best Actress award next to Meryl and Jessica. Because of the comeback story and the lots of other nominations for the films, she probably got ahead of Debra Winger in the final voting but I'm not even sure about that.
I'm going to be perfectly honest and admit how much I dislike Victor Victoria. I don't want to offend the fans, but I found this movie to be incredibly predictable and even tiring to watch. The movie couldn't decide if it wanted to be a smart comedy on sexuality (failed) or an old-fashioned musical-comedy (failed). Sure, the music part is perfection (thanks to the great Henry Mancini who deservedly won an Oscar for his work here). But seriously the jokes are so lame despite the fact that they were intended to be raunchy. Seriously, I was just waiting for someone falling with a cake and guess what... The cast should be great, instead they are just OK: James Garner is somewhat bored, Robert Preston plays all the stereotypes possible and Lesley Ann Warren... I'm gonna shut my mouth about her.
Victor Victoria was obviously intended by Blake Edwards to showcase the talents of his wife, Julie Andrews. Andrews was the box office darling of the 60s, she couldn't make a mistake and suddenly came the 70s and the new generation of actresses like Jane Fonda took over and there was no place for Julie's benevolent, darling presence. Only four films of hers were released and the only thing that brought some attention to her was her breasts. She certainly reached the point where she desperately needed a great comeback role. Her prayers must have been heard... at least by her husband. But not even this movie could restore her old status as the biggest star of Hollywood.
I am actually quite fond of Julie Andrews as actress, after all, I made her my 1964 Best Actress pick (which, as I'd like to think, caused a kind of a stir among my dear readers). Her talent goes way beyond her perfect singing voice (just like Henry Mancini, I have a hard time believing that she ever made a false note), she's able to show innocence and goodness on the screen like nobody else, without becoming overly sentimental (OK, some really argue with that). She evokes some of my mostkindest feelings in me that while I'm watching her I feel like going back in time, which is kind of unusual for me with musicals as usually, I feel like commiting genocide and desroying my TV set after watching them (there are some exceptions, though). I can't help it.
With Victor Victoria something really went wrong. In the beginning, when Julie plays the real Victoria, she's a real treat to watch: she's obviously having fun with the character, she knows how to portray her struggles with a sense of humor and she instantly won me over. Her deliveries were just excellent, her chemistry with Robert Preston worked wonderfully and I was thinking I would see a very entertaining performance with a touch of irony.
Things really start to get worse when she becomes Victor Victoria. I'll just go out and say that she's as believable as a drag queen as Cher would be as a reverend mother. Although it's great that, unlike Robert Preston, she avoided only relying on mannerisms and stereotypes but that resulted in one awful thing: she remained a woman playing a woman, not a woman playing a man playing a woman or whatever. She performed those songs excellently, but really, it was Julie Andrews singing, not Victor Victoria. The thing is that this is no big problem when you watch this movie for the first time, but on repeated viewings, it's just not enough: I could get DVDs of her concerts and watch them instead of this movie.
The main problem is that this movie would have needed a more loud and over-the-top performer like Bette Midler in the lead. I'm not that huge fan of hers but I'd say she would have been the best option for this movie. Julie, as hard as she's trying, is not wild, loud and flambuoyant enough for such a character. I see that she was trying really hard, but honestly, the scenes where she tries to be seductive are the worst of all. There's nothing about her that would justify the attraction of James Garner's character.
Victor Victoria is also desperate to give a kind of message about the place of women in the society but Julie, in with her saint-like presence, is simply not a believable when she's predicting the feminist messages. Although there's sort of a depth (or a point) in her dialogues with James Garner, she still comes off as weak and really boring.
The silly comedy parts of the movie are the ones where Julie's at her best. Her comic timing works excellently and her presence is (as usual) really charming. Still, it's just not enough for her to have an effect on me.
I'm not saying that Julie Andrews gives a bad performance in Victor Victoria. Although I was very amused by her occasionally, she didn't make her character as a fake drag queen very believable or interesting. It's not even really her fault, the part is just not right for her. She solves the comedy parts quite well, but she was not able to give a really layered performance.
What do you think?