Friday, August 10, 2012

Laura Linney in The Savages

Laura Linney received her third Oscar nomination for playing Wendy Savage, a neurotic, insecure woman who has to deal with a dying father in The Savages. Laura Linney was the surprise nominee of 2007 but that doesn't mean that she had no chance of winning the Oscar. In my opinion, she had a firm fanbase in the Academy and might have even received enough votes to be third. The screenplay nomination proves that they liked the movie and Laura Linney had already lost twice. I suppose, in the end, it was Marion's Oscar and nobody could do anything about it. 

The Savages is such a really great and memorable film, with lots of dark moments and real drama that has a great effect because of the performances of the two leads. Interesting enough, Philip Seymour Hoffman's work received more recognition than Laura's and yet Laura received the nomination. Hoffman had to make do with a supporting nomination for Charlie Wilson's War. Fortunately, however, the screenplay did receive a nomination even though I'm not saying Tamara Jenkins should have taken home the Oscar instead of Diablo Cody (Ratatouille was the best in the category for me).

It's also easy to see why Laura's performance was singled out for a nomination: she's a respected actress, a previous nominee and characters like Wendy are indeed Laura's specality. Some say Laura plays the same character over and over, but I have to disagree with that. The fact is that nobody else plays neurotic women with problems the way Linney does: she adds lots of humor and humanity to these character and this combination makes her performances such treats. She makes it so easy to sympathise with the women she plays: there's always a moment when you say 'Oh, I'm just like that.' Laura reveals the flaws of her character and yet those make them more likeable.

And in that way, this performance is a standard Laura Linney performance with a standard Linney character. However, even a standard Linney performance is something truly wonderful and memorable. Wendy Savage is a person who seems to be quite unlikeable at first sight, but as the movie progresses, she gets to become the most likeable and warm presence in the movie. Just like with every other character she plays, Laura reveals Wendy's humanity and flaws in a very unique way and as a result it's very easy to relate to Wendy. Personally, I got much closer to knowing this person than Philip Seymour Hoffman's character.

However, I must say that the two actors work excellently together. One can rarely witness the relationship between siblings portrayed in such a realistic and believable way. I could feel the connection between them and how they are the total opposites of each other. There's an odd mix of love and rivalry between them. The scene with the argument over Wendy's scholarship is just extraordinary: all the tension over the years between these two people come to surface in their petty argument, the jealousy, envy of Jon and the feeling of being ignored and underestimated of Wendy. Laura wonderfully underlines the insecurities in Wendy, as if she herself couldn't believe of herself that she'd be worthy of a scholarship (which she doesn't have anyway). One can feel the embarassment of Wendy when she's confronted with the truth by her brother. And Laura is just so darn human in those scenes. This relationship forms throughout the movie and I'm not saying that they get much closer or find complete peace with each other, it's just that they get closer to each other.

The thing I was missing from the screenplay is truly revealing the backstory of the relationship of the siblings with their father, Leonard. We get clues about Jon, but Wendy's story with Lenny is not completely told and I felt sorry for that as I believe it would have been explained a lot about Wendy's personality. Instead, Laura has to provide with some kind of an explanation and she offers some suggestions, from which the viewer has to choose. Wendy feels enourmously guilty about putting his father into a nursing home (unlike her brother) and in my opinion, she was the one who was more concerned about Lenny of the two. That's why the scene on the plane feels almost cathartic. A woman ignored by her father doesn't let him down in the end and I also felt some kind of a redemption in that scene.

This is probably why the way Linney tackles Wendy's relationship with men (in general) is one of the most intresting aspects of this performance. Is that older boyfriend of Wendy a kind of a daddy thing for her? That's why her scenes with the Nigerian nurse are so intriguing and important. Although Wendy experiences rejection once again, there was someone who really appreciated her for what she is and gave her some positive feedback about herself. And this sort of dependancy on men that Laura shows is not because of a sexist screenplay (a woman wrote it after all, though it could be a problem even then) but could indeed reveal something about the lack of love from her father, which Wendy desperately wants to create.

My only problem could be that there's no big scene for Laura. Although I loved her throughout the film and I was constantly pleased by her presence, I would have wanted to see her being more emotional. Unfortunately, I didn't feel like her performance had an emotional highlight. As a result, I felt her work was slightly lacking as Laura didn't get to display everything she had in her and basically show everything she knows about her character and actually, it's the movie that standing in her way. Sometimes the direction was desperate to impress and that prevented the actors (who actually carry the movie on their shoulders) from really shining. And in the end, I found that her performance didn't become as interesting as it could have been, which is proven by the fact that you really have to think what to write about her as her work didn't become that rich in the end because the screenplay actually cheated Laura out of many opportunities that she could (and should) have had.

Still, Laura Linney gives an extremely relatable, wonderful performance as a person who doesn't seem to be likeable at all at first sight and yet we get close to her and sympathise with her character. She never goes for cheap tricks to portray the neurotic personality of Wendy. She excellently mixes comedy with drama, creating the ideal dramedy performance while seeming effortless all the time (something that one of her fellow nominees didn't really succeed in). 

What do you think?(Sorry for making you all wait, but I was really invested in the Olympic Games and I couldn't really write. The next review {Marion} comes on Sunday or Monday)


Nues20 said...

I agree with you mostly as in some respects it is a showy but not showy performance...if that makes sense :)
I thought of her maybe a bit stronger though.
I knows about the Olympics!
Here in London it's buzzing - I went to the Athletics last week :))

joe burns said...

I personally love her: A 4 and a half from me. I think the fact that it's not a showy performance is what's impressive about it: She is simply so funny and natural.

Probably 3rd place, I think Ellen will not do so well....

mrripley said...

a+++++ from me my 2nd choice of 2007,sucha warm human non fussy real character.

Louis Morgan said...

A good performance. Not one I loved, but she certainly is effective in the role.

Anonymous said...

got the ellen hint....uh oh


dinasztie said...

Marc: :))))))