Sunday, February 17, 2013

Naomi Watts in The Impossible

Naomi Watts received her second Oscar nomination for playing Maria, a mother who's trying to survive the horrible tsunami of 2004 with her son in The Impossible. In this very unlikely Best Actress year, Naomi didn't seem to be more than a long shot for a nomination until the guilds, the Globes and fellow actors (like Reese Witherspoon and Angelina Jolie) expressed their support for her and the movie itself. That being said, I feel that Naomi has the least chance of winning the Oscar this year, because all the other ladies star in Best Picture nominees. Diana could do it for her next year (although I'm not too sure because of Meryl and Jennifer Lawrence's Serena, especially if Jen loses now, which seems more and more probable, it's a matter of time). That being said, I'm hearing about some late buzz for Naomi, but I don't think that will help her win.

Since I'm a fan of disaster flicks in general, I was really looking forward to The Impossible, but I knew it was going to be different from all the other films because it's based on real events. And yes, it is terrifying, even when the director chooses to be overly theatrical. You know that this tragedy indeed took place and being faced with reality is really painful. In my humble opinion, the movie also should have been recognised for the heartbreaking, stunning visual effects, which were in my opinion essential to the film. Same goes for Ewan McGregor's performance: it's better than 80% of the nominated ones, I was especially moved by his breakdown in the telephone scene. I don't know what he has to do to finally be nominated. 

Although I'd say Naomi Watts is leading in this film, she's definitely not the central character, since the story is mostly about the development of the oldest son, while Naomi Watts has to support him, while also trying to have an effect on her own. As you may remember, I wasn't very fond of Naomi's first Oscar nominated performance in 21 Grams, but other than that, I always thought she was a very reliable, talented, beautiful actress who gave a stunning breakthrough performance in Mulholland Drive. I think if she was fighting for great part as much as her good friend Nicole Kidman, she would also receive nominations more often. Instead, she chose a more subtle progress in her career and I'm sure that it was the right decision for her.

As many people said, dramatic intensity is almost a trade mark of Naomi Watts, which is exactly what a great disaster film needs. And the emphasis is really on "great" because we often tend to forget about acting in this genre (or at least we seriously underrate it), but then we should think about the likes of The Poseidon Adventure or The Towering Inferno. These movies worked because of how A-list cast was able to keep the tension, even when the story itself is paper thin. After all, disasters bring out the instinct of survival out of a person and you can't really follow the acting style of an Ivory-Merchant movie. You have to be shamelessly emotional, holding nothing back, which is actually a very difficult thing to pull off believably and that's probably why Naomi Watts was the perfect choice for the role of Maria.

The beginning of the movie is incredibly idyllic, with a seemingly alright family with usual problems and Naomi does a great job showing Maria's desire to go back to work and change in her life. It's a sort of typical exposition to the disaster that develops a connection between the main characters and the audience and Naomi is especially effective. She (along with her co-stars) wonderfully builds up the tension to the big tsunami scene. The movie and the actors play one of the easiest and most manipulative games with the viewer: you know what's coming, the characters don't. Therefore, sometimes I was baffled if the effect was because of the performance or the story, but for most of the time I didn't even have doubts that I was affected by the great performances.

After this, Naomi's part is only demanding physically and she doesn't have to care about building up the development of the character. Her only task is to keep up the intensity in every scene, which she solves quite easily, actually. Still, it's impossible not to be moved by her work: Maria is trying her best to survive for the sake of her son is just incredible. She doesn't get obvious Oscar scenes like Ewan McGregor so she had to make do with her own opportunities: desperate looks, screaming and her character floating between life and death. She doesn't follow Emmanuelle Riva's dignified way, Naomi's performance becomes no-holds-barred after the tsunami and yet she was able to solve this much better than she did in 21 Grams (in my opinion).

The problems come when her character is in the background. Unfortunately, her screen time is not enough to completely keep up that intensity throughout the film. Mostly she just lies on a hospital bed and has gruesome physical reactions (the make-up was also amazing) and suffers but after a while she pales a little bit in comparison with other story lines with more active characters and emotional scenes. I was quite sorry about this because with more scenes and a more development in the character, she would have been able to bring the house down and give a truly earth-shattering performance that would make me admire her performance as much as her fellow Hollywood actors.

To sum up, Naomi Watts gives a really effective performance in The Impossible, which may not have blown me away, but I was still impressed by it. She does the best she can with her character and has a lion share in making the movie as dramatic and devastating as it really is. I just feel that besides the physical and dramatic part, there wasn't much going on with the character and that's probably the reason why she's not more of a contender for the actual award. I just wish there was more focus on her character and then she could have been a shoo-in for Oscar's and my own vote. Still, a powerful and intense piece of work that deserves a

What do you think?


Louis Morgan said...

I thought she gave a very powerful performance even though, as you wrote, it is somewhat limited character due to the nature of the film. I did think she brought every little thing she could out of the role though.

dinasztie said...

Yeah, basically I thought the same. :)

joe burns said...

I thought you would give her a little more, but I guess I was wrong. I might see her before the Oscars though and I'm looking forward to it.

Great review by the way! Can Chastain be next?

dinasztie said...

Thanks Joe, I'm flattered enough to make Jessica the next one but it depends on how much time I have to rewatch the films. :) Beasts is cobsiderably shorter than ZD30. :)

Anonymous said...

Before noms I thought she was the potential underdog, but her momentum has cooled considerably. It was interesting that 3 of the 5 voters in EW's "How I'm Voting" picked her though. A win for her would be truly shocking.

That said, I do quite like her here, even though I don't like her in general. I guess she'd be my pick (Riva still unseen), though JLaw is a close #2.

mrripley said...

I thought she was ok but there is even less of a character than chastain's maya in zdt,i know she went ott in 21 grams on occasion but she also had some fantastic scenes too,her chemistry on the plane with ewan at the start was awkward and stilted like they had just met,i think ewa n shoulda had that supporting nom the phone scene alone warrants it,i find her nomination a bit baffling to be honest,sorry naomi.

dinasztie said...

Derek I love your new profile picture. Enlightened rocks! Laura 4ever.

mrripley: I thought they had good chemistry. Not Cooper/Lawrence level but just fine. :)))

Anonymous said...

I couldn't resist that hilarious face Amy is making. Enlightened is so fucking fantastic. Laura Dern for all the Emmys. It's so much better than Girls (a good show as well), which steals all the buzz.

Any Laura Dern movie recommendations? I need to see more of her filmography.

Michael555 said...

Inland Empire features quite a bit of Laura...but it's David Lynch and it's weird as hell. Enjoy! lol.

Happy that Naomi got four Meryls, I was afraid of how you were going to react to her.

dinasztie said...

WILD AT HEART, Derek, that's #1!

Carlos (The Final Oscar) said...

I was expecting that you'd give her a 4.5, but anyway, I'm happy you liked her.

She is fantastic. I just wished there was more of her, but she really gives an immensely haunting performance. She never drops the character even if the scene demands more physicality.

I love her, my gosh! She's the longshot possibility for the win, though she still has to wrestle Riva, Lawrence, and Chastain to get that.

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