Thursday, March 15, 2012

Sharon Stone in Casino

Sharon Stone received her only Best Actress nomination to date for playing Ginger, a prosititute who becomes the wife of the mobster Sam 'Ace' Rothstein. Although Stone won the Golden Globe for her performance, I don't think she was such a serious contender as she didn't receive a nomination from her fellow SAG members. I suppose if Sarandon had already been an Oscar winner, Sharon could have built up enough momentum to win the Oscar - she was a great star turning in a great performance in a Scorsese movie and so on. I suppose in the end she was second after Sarandon. 

Casino, just like Leaving Las Vegas, is a masterpiece and much better than any of the five nominated Pictures. Although it's not as amazing as Goodfellas (what can be), it's so mindblowingly great. Everything is so perfect about it that I actually find it extremely hard to believe that its only nomination came for Stone. The cinematography, art direction, costumes, editing and most of all, the directing - brilliant. De Niro is fantastic as Ace and I'm kind of stunned that she was snubbed during award season. The movie itself has such a depressing, paranoid atmosphere, you just feel that in this world, you just cannot trust anyone and this uncertainty that makes this film so effective. 

If we asked people on the street what they think about when Sharon Stone's name comes up, very few would say Casino. She's best remembered for her iconic role Catherine Tramell in Basic Instinct, where she so infamously proved that (unlike Hot Lips) she's a natural blonde. Then again we are reminded that she's in fact an Academy Award nominee and surprisingly, it wasn't for Basic Instinct, but Casino, a gangster film by Scorsese. 

Performances as wives of famous man or gangsters is something very much welcome at the Academy Award thought extremely rarely in the leading category. I'm sure that if the part of Ginger had been played by a lesser-known actress, she would have been campaigned in the supporting category or if Sharon played it now in 2012 with Harvey Weinstein as a producer, she could start writing her speech for her Oscar for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. That being said, Ginger is a very important character in the story of Casino but I wouldn't swear that the movie wouldn't be the same thing without her - she fulfils all the criteria of s supporting player: she doesn't steal the spotlight from the lead, she doesn't have much screentime, but has a lasting effect on the movie in her scenes. However, in Stone's case that effect is so strong that I couldn't claim that she's not a co-lead at least. She uses lots of her charisma, sexiness and star power in a part that Madonna was intended to play. 

In the beginning, we get to see a beautiful, hot, intelligent and very confident prostitute, working in Las Vegas. Unlike Sera from Leaving Las Vegas, Ginger succesfully avoids devastating circumstances with the help of her wit and her looks. No wonder Ace is instantly mesmerised by her, she's attractive in every possible way a person can be and she's indeed a woman to go crazy for. Stone gradually reveals the dark side of Ginger and boy, is it impressive! She's just amazing in the scene at the wedding party: on the surface, she's a happy bride but two minutes later she's a broken-down woman crying on the telephone to her former pimp. It's interesting that Stone made very different decisions with this character: here, she holds herself back, she's mostly subtle and as Ginger starts going downhill she goes more and more over the top. 

The only thing that's working against her is her masterful movie. Starring in masterpieces is a very tough thing for the actor, as it clearly overshadows the merits of the performances. It doesn't help, either that she's barely on the screen for a very long time. With a supporting character that would have been fine, but you would expect a lead to be fully in charge of the film. Nevertheless, that's the most negative thing I can say about Sharon and I must also add that none of it is her fault as once she's back, she's dynamite. 

Ginger is not a Carmela Soprano type of character who tries to turn a blind eye on her husband's activities but inside guilt is just killing her. Far from it: Ginger actively participates in all the action, she doesn't even try to hide her greed. She knows what she's entitled to and she's willing to get it by all means. Stone brilliantly emphasises how immoral and greedy this woman is, to her it's no big deal to smoke coke in front of her daughter or ordering her lover to kill her husband instantly. 

Ginger's not a typical (movie) addict, either. Stone doesn't want us to feel any sympathy for her, she shows her as the pathetic, broken-down junkie that she really is. I kept being amazed at how well Sharon was able to keep control of her character that was diving deeper and deeper into chaos. On imdb message boards, I've read many complaints about how Stone overplayed Ginger and her whole overacting ruined the movie - in my opinion, that's the biggest praise that she oould get. Stone simply kills the movie with her destructive energy and makes it a truly unpleasant experience. 

This is the reason Sharon's scenes with James Woods are just amazing: she's lost almost everything and these moments brilliantly show how much Ginger is tied to her past. 'Once a hooker, always a hooker' yells Ace after a really ugly fight with Ginger. Sharon's varied greatness shows one simple thing: Ginger is incapable of changing. She has calmer, more quiet periods but there comes another breakdown, another night of cocaine and booze. Stone shows us a very painful and disturbing downfall of a woman. 

Eventually, in the highlight of Stone's performance, Ginger attacks Ace and has a huge breakdown in front of their house: Sharon displays all the emotions of Ginger in a way that we get a brief summary of the character in those few minutes. Although it's true that she's one step away from totally ruinig the character, she was so in control of her that she remains as fantastic as she was perviously.

Another 1995 lady, another terrific performance. Sharon Stone gives a brutal, chaotic and disturbing performance as Ginger in Casino. She gets rid of all her vanity, glamour and sexiness in the process of creating a living piece of junk. Although the downfall of this woman is very hard to watch, Sharon makes it a wonderful experience, thanks to her wonderful talent, her intelligence and confidence. Excellent work. 
What do you think? 


Fritz said...

Haven't seen her yet but probably will soon. Your review makes her sound very interesting!

JC said...

I have the DVD for this sine four years ago but I haven't still watched it. Now, you really make me want to.

BTW, really nice new design for your site. =)))))

dinasztie said...

Thank you. I'm trying, I'm trying... =))

Anonymous said...

Great review. I also think its harder for an actor to give great performance in a great movie than great performance in a bad movie. At least its harder to notice that greatness if you're surrounded by it.

mrripley said...

I am amzed this film was snubbed across the board and feel 95's nomijnees in picture are very weak apart from s and s,i have cooled on stone since 1996 abd feel after a rewatch she really is supporting but she wanted that best actress nominee tag and told courtney love not to settle for supporting in 96 for the people vs larry flynt,i have her 4th in my top 5 for 2995 but omit thompson and add kidman.good write up.

Louis Morgan said...

I actually don't love the film, but she is effective in it.

dinasztie said...

Anon: Yes, that's exactly how I feel.

mrripley: Her campaign worked. :)

Cole said...

I need to re-watch it and entirely this time.

Alex in Movieland said...

No 5/5?? :) I demand a recount!

dinasztie said...

Sorry Alex. :D Two years ago she would have gotten it hands down but I'm trying to be less generous. :D She's amazing, don't worry, I love her. :D LOL

Sissy said...

I think Sharon was just fantastic in this film, and yeah she may have seemed "over the top" but that's what immense amounts of cocaine, booze, and prescription pills will do to ya, that scene near the end when she finally leaves forever and races to the bank to get her loot ("you're not gonna cheat me outa MY END!!!) and then gets stopped by the cops coming out and she is rocking back and forth from one foot to another like a three year old who's got to pee (But I didn't DO anything!), oh that was classic.

And De Niro was great too, I've know NIGYSOB'ers (Now I've Got You Son Of A Bitch) like him, and that part when he's counting the blueberries in the muffin, just spot on I tell you. I'm a sucker for a good gangster flick, thanks for the review.

dinasztie said...

Sissy: It was my pleasure. :) You're absolutely right. Sharon was over-the-top because she HAD to act that way. It's all those shit she drank, smoked, whatever.

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