Saturday, January 21, 2012

Sissy Spacek in Missing

Fresh off her Oscar win two years earlier, Sissy Spacek got another nomination in the Best Actress category for her performance as Beth Horman, the wife of a missing young man in the controversial Costa-Gavras film, Missing. I suppose in the gigantic fight between Jessica Lange and Meryl Streep for the Oscar gold made all of their fellow nominees spectators in their own race. On Inside the Actor's Studio, Sissy admitted voting for Meryl so I suppose she didn't have high expectations. I suppose she was fourth, based on the fact that her  movie nominated for Best Picture (only one in the bunch) and she might have had some leftover love (though that could have been the reason for why she was last).

While I recognise how ambitious piece of work Missing is, I'm just not willing to consider it a great movie. It has some really harrowing and heart-breaking moments but the overall effect of it wasn't that strong on me at all. It just didn't attract my attention, especially in the scenes without Sissy Spacek and Jack Lemmon. Jack Lemmon gives a devastating, extremely heart-breaking performance, which tells us so much about the inner self of that desperate man. His famous speech in the stadium is actually much shorter than I remember but it's just spot-on: it really hits you hard with its emotional honesty and rawness. I also can't go by the fantastic score of Vangelis who had a great deal to do with making this movie as intense as it is sometimes.

I always considered Sissy Spacek to be an actress blessed with huge talent and great beauty. She's not beautiful in a very traditional sense (but, boy am I furious when people say she's ugly!), she has a very radiant presence and her face wonderfully expresses her emotions. I can only compare her to Michelle Williams from nowadays' actresses: both of them are like some magical pixies and have a wonderful, shining personality (it's just interesting how similar their careers are). 

In Missing, Sissy gets to play the co-lead part of Beth Horman, a real-life person. She has a missing husband  in Chile during Pinochet's coup and has to deal with her arch conservative father-in-law. This could have been a very meaty and showy role but Sissy's not given a truly interesting character so it's up to her knowledge and talent bring something memorable out of this sort of one-dimensional character. Also, Jack Lemmon gets a really deep multi-layered character and he uses every opportunity to shine in his part, leaving Sissy far behind. Honestly, the movie could be titled Missing: A Good Character for Sissy Spacek. 

However, Sissy's talent and wonderful never lets her down as their's something about her performance that keeps resonating with me. She's fantastic at showing the idealism of this woman and her willingness to find out what happened to her husband. As I said she doesn't get any showy breakdowns or monologues unlike Jack Lemmon and it was a very brave decision from her to avoid the clichés of the suffering wife, yet it fell a little bit flat for me, for several reasons. 

First of all, I never saw that Beth had a very complete development from the almost naive young woman to a more experienced but still idealistic person. Although the movie is constantly standing in her way, she could have shown more. It might be fact that I just can't stand performances with obvious highlights (that's true in a way), but I don't think, either that Sissy was creating something special here. There are impressive moments, like the one where we can see her fear after hiding at night or her small breakdown when she recognises the corpse of a good friend. These are memorable scenes, though I wouldn't exactly say that they are unforgettable.

Sissy and Jack Lemmon make up a very odd couple, to say the least but interesting enough, it all works. The only way in which this performance is almost spot-on, is the relationship of these two people: Sissy's Beth starts as the loyal opposition and eventually they turn out to be the most faithfully allies you can ever see. I felt the connection of two opposite generations with very different views of the world they live in (more precisely, they live in different worlds). Beth is the more progressive, idealistic and naive of the two, while Jack's Ed is the more down-to-earth, conventional man who likes facts but there's a special bond between them: their goal of finding a missing person. I was especially appreciative of the fact that the filmmakers were serious enough not write some one-liners in their fight scenes. 

I refuse to believe that Sissy didn't give 100% to the role. It's not like watching a stage diva performing to students on a Thursday night. I actually saw her caring about her character, it's really just the nature and the obvious limitations of the part that prevent her from completely impressing me. However, as much as I'm trying to be impressed by her, I just can't be, which is especially weird, considering the fact that I was watching Sissy Spacek, one of my absolute favorite actresses. 

Still, Sissy Spacek was able to get something out of her one-dimensional character. While her performance is far from dreary, she's not able to reveal as many layers of this character as she can with other roles. Although I appreciate the massive amount of talent and effort that she put into this part, I'm simply not impressed by her work in this movie. Something is really missing. 

What do you think?

Who should be next: Debra or Julie? 


Alex in Movieland said...

I've never seen this. :)

dinasztie said...

You didn't lose much, to tell the truth. :D

mrripley said...

Debra I am always interested in that performance.

Louis Morgan said...

She was fine given the material, but her performance never amounted to anything substantial.

Anonymous said...

Missing is not a very good movie, but Jack Lemmon and Sissy Spacek were excellent, in my opinion. If I have the chance, I watch the movie only because of them and the final scenes.
And yes, I agree Sissy Spacek is beautiful!


Fritz said...

It seems I liked her a bit more than you do but there are certainly problems with her role.