Sunday, July 8, 2012

Sigourney Weaver in Gorillas in the Mist: The Story of Dian Fossey

Sigourney Weaver received her second (and to date last) Best Actress nomination for playing Dian Fossey, a murdered scientist who dedicated her life to saving gorillas from extinction. Not only did Siggy join the double nominees club in 1988, but she also became the first actress to lose two Oscars at one show. It must have been very disappointing for poor Siggy but I suppose the worst thing for her must have been the people expressing how sorry they were. Her loss can be understood extremely easily: she split votes with herself since neither category had a very strong front-runner. As a result, voters had no idea where to vote for her and oops... I suppose in the end she was third in Best Actress and second in Best Supporting Actress (why the hell couldn't they give her that one at least, my pick is Joan but I definitely would have voted for Siggy at the time; oh is Joan really my pick? :D). 

Gorillas in the Mist is a nice movie, even though sometimes it just drags along. It is an exhausting piece despite the fact that it's not a real challenge for your intelligence or any of your senses. It's properly written, directed and acting, plus, I really have to underline the fact Maurice Jarre's score that's probably the best thing about the whole movie. Although I'm not sure if I would have voted for it (hello Dangerous Liaisons), it created a wonderful atmosphere to the movie. I was pretty much amazed by it. And as a big fan of The Good Wife, I found it so funny that Siggy went for the same guy that Christine Baranski does there (Bryan Brown). :-)

I have sentimental and cool reasons to love Sigourney Weaver. OK, the sentimental one is that she was my second celeb childhood crush after Julianna Margulies (again, connections with The Good Wife, weird) and for that reason, she always remains special to me. The cool reason came four or five years later, when I turned into an Alien fanatic (OK, now I can admit that not even dearest Jane had a prayer of getting my vote in 1986) and I could just watch anything she's in. Moreover, it doesn't hurt, either, that I was also a Ghostbusters fanatic for a couple of years. And as it was pointed out to me earlier how much she looked like Jane Fonda, that pretty much sealed the deal for me. All in all, I can't really go wrong with a Sigourney Weaver movie and as a result, I'm more lenient and less objective about her than I should probably be.

Despite all these things, I have to say right here and right now that I couldn't really warm up to her performance as Dian Fossey. I'm perfectly aware that her most dedicated fans consider this to be her masterpiece (for me that's easily Aliens), I'm not much of a fan and I consider this to be her least impressive nominated work (so sorry Derek :-( ). That being said, it doesn't mean that I don't like her in this movie because I do in many ways.

I suppose my sort of reluctant feelings are mostly down to the fact that I could never really smypathise with her character. Don't misunderstand me, I find Dian Fossey a brilliant woman who did so much for protecting gorillas and as a result, the diversity of species on our Earth, it's just that the story's portrait of her is rather lacking and pale.

Therefore, it was up to Sigourney to replace the missing parts. Naturally, she does the best she can and her dedication is truly admirable, I just never really warmed up to her performance like I usually do with her. I'm aware of how hard and how long Siggy worked with those gorillas plus she nailed the technical part of this character, in my opinion. That way, she was almost perfect, in my humble opinion.

And the scenes where we can see her communicating with the gorillas are just thrilling. Siggy perfectly showed how well Dian understood these animals and how attached she has become to them. She shows that gorillas were Dian's real family and she acted like a protective mother around them. It's an interesting process to witness.

The character of Dian goes through a huge development and it was up to Siggy to make it as believable and intriguing as possible. The movie tried to reveal a darker side of Dian, but I felt that it was sometimes too forgiving and easy on her. And that unfortunately applies to Siggy as well. She wants to show that Dian Fossey became a fanatic towards the end, but I never thought that she was willing to risk not being considered a hero. I think a more subtle and detailed approach to Dian's flaws would have helped a lot. Because this way, it could be considered a bigger meltdown, which was actually only a little bit over-the-top and I was really affected by it. And yet, with hindsight, it seems a little bit out of place, especially considering Siggy's previous approach, which was more subtle.

Another very interesting part of this performance was Siggy's scenes where Dian finds love on the side of the photographer played by Bryan Brown. The chemistry between the two actors is extremely strong and I was really impressed how tender they scenes became. And Siggy's acting is probably the most balanced in these moments.

I also enjoyed the interactions between Dian and her friend Sembagare, the only person who always understood her and stood right by her side. Their friendship was portrayed so wonderfully by both actors and it was a thrill to watch them being together on the screen, with Dian being the passionate, emotional one and Sembagare being the more reserved and cool-headed one of the two.

As I stated earlier, I want to be lenient with Siggy here. And there are more reasons than the fact that I love her in general: there's really a great deal to love and admire about this performance, I just don't think I can so easily ignore the things that bothered me. I have the exact same reaction that I had to Greer Garson in Blossoms in the Dust. I love her as an actress, I enjoyed her work so why can't I settle for that?

So I can conclude that just like Sally Field in Places in the Heart, I liked and admired Sigourney Weaver in Gorillas in the Mist. Although I saw the dedication and her commitment to her character, somehow she never really won me over completely, which is extremely unusual for me with a performance by Siggy. She shows the passion and the development of her character wonderfully, she doesn't go too much over the top, except for some scenes.

What do you think? (The rating seems low, I know, but I have to be less generous with my Meryls, earlier this would have been an easy 4). 


Nues20 said...

Wow surprised that this means that Melanie will not be your 5th. I liked her but I completely agree with your criticisms. It wasn't the greatest Siggy performance though - in supporting I would have given it to Michelle Pfeiffer she was amazing in Dangerous Liaisons!
Have you seen Prometheus - the Alien prequel?
It's really good!

Nues20 said...


joe burns said...

I think she's good, but very uneven, she will definitely be 5th, and I think Foster will be 4th.

I'm still pulling for Glenn...

Anonymous said...

I kind of felt like you weren't going to like her that much, so this isn't unexpected. It's sad to see her drop into 5th though, that's for sure.

I go back and forth between this and Aliens as my favorite Sigourney perf. There's no doubt that Gorillas is a much harder film to get through.

Louis Morgan said...

I am surprised by this a little, another that I have not seen due to the film's reputation.

mrripley said...

i liked and in parts loved her,i thought the romance sub plot let the film down but i'd still nominateher,siggy's the best,would have had her win in support,she ha also been delied several nominations for the likes of deatha and the maiden,a map of the world,the tv set and the ice stoprm.