Wednesday, 28 June 2006

Tête à claques XI

Told you the mellowness wouldn’t last long.

Before you go on reading, please answer this question: did you enjoy Truly Madly Deeply? If you’ve answered, “Oh my god, it’s my favourite movie; I’ve seen it 25 times and cried soooo much each time,” you can stop reading now because this post will upset you.

If, on the other hand, you’ve answered, “Ugh! That movie made me want to throw up: it was so syrupy and fake and the acting was disgusting,” then please carry on.

Juliet Stevenson was the main culprit and I wanted to slap her very hard for it when the film came out, all those years ago, and I can’t wait one minute longer.

I used to adore her. I saw her in her very first part at the RSC in 1978. She was 20 years old, I think, and fresh from drama school. She’d got the part of a servant in a marvellous production of The Taming of the Shrew because the actress who should have been playing that part had broken her leg or something, and she made a great impact in that small part. I got to know her and the following year she even stayed in my flat in Paris, while I spent the summer in Stratford. I saw everything she was in and was never disappointed. She had a superb, distinctive, grown-up voice and she was always good. She was also very serious and dedicated and had unbelievable self-discipline.

And then Truly Madly Deeply happened and that was it. She became the most mannered actress ever – a kind of caricature. My partner’s theory is that she was praised so much for her performance in that film that she must have thought that was what the public wanted from her so she gave it more of the same. And she started playing fluffy (she doesn’t have the physique for fluffiness) and scatty women because she was offered other parts like that after that landmark film. Her voice got shriller too.

I stopped being able to watch her, but I don’t give up easily on people and I’ve seen her in other things since then – just because I keep hoping that one day she will be the powerful performer she was when she was young. Tonight my partner and I saw her in a terrible production of The Seagull, directed by the perverse Katie Mitchell. Perverse because she decided to go against the text all through, without any reason whatsoever. Perhaps tomorrow’s reviews will reveal that the nonsense we saw on the stage had some profound meaning, but I doubt it. Juliet wasn’t bad, but she couldn’t be good in such a preposterous production. I’m afraid I hid from her, when she walked by in the foyer after the show. “Darling, you were wonderful!” I couldn’t possibly have said that to her – no way.

I’m slapping Dame Juliet (it’s only a question of time…) for being such a disappointment.

7 comments:

  1. Oh J! I am so-so on this actress, but I ADORED "Truly, Madly, Deeply." I think that's when I really fell in love with Alan Rickman. The one thing I did appreciate about her in the movie was her "openess." She didn't care that she blew snot, drooled,messed her makeup,and in general, appeared ugly, during her crying scenes. THAT was realistic! (And they played cello throughout-I can't turn away cello...)

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  2. Well, J, I must admit I tried to watch Truly Madly Deeply. Twice. Both times I fell asleep before too long. Which partly has to do with my timing - chose to watch it before bedtime. But it also had to do with my inability to care about what was happening. I guess I can't make any judgements on the movie since I've yet to see more than a wee bit at the beginning. So my answer to "did you enjoy Truly Madly Deeply" is neither A nor B. I answer C: don't care, won't care, dude, whatever. I guess I'd make a terrible cinephile, no?

    I've just never been much of a theater goer. Inevitably I look at the ticket prices here in Porland, and then think, ooooh, but the opera is almost the same price! And then I go to the opera instead. It's hard for me to appreciate live actors without some nice athletic singing going on :P One day I vow to become interesting!

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  3. But did you see her in The Politician's Wife, with Trevor Ewe and Minnie Driver? Tour de force, in my opinion! Have not seen the movie you mentioned, so will have to try and rent it.
    Cautiously getting ready to slap-hand in air-no-cannot do it! The other series was too superb. What about slapping the director of The Seagull? MAybe JS just had to pay her rent, like the rest of us...

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  4. Shoot-forgot to sign my name-it's I-Carole!

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  5. Obviously, J, what is realistic acting to one person is shameless overacting to another. LOL!

    I too adore Alan Rickman (he was with the RSC at exactly the same time as Juliet and he was so bad in one of the parts he was doing that year he was nearly sacked, but he redeemed himself in another production and was allowed to stay on... and have a great career). We call him ‘The Bundle of Joy’ in my household. He’s like Eeyore, isn’t he? But superb. As far as I’m concerned, Truly Madly Deeply was a blip in the careers of all the people involved in it (JS, AR and Anthony Minghella), except it had such a devastating effect on JS’s acting.

    K, don’t force yourself to watch TMD. Give it a miss (I often wish I had).

    I love the opera too, but the theatre is my main love (although, if I don’t get to see something really good very soon I might go back to films (which I love too), and save pots of money. Hmm... I’ve been saying that for ages, actually; I don’t think I could do it. I can think of a lot of plays would benefit from ‘some nice athletic singing’. LOL!

    Hi, C! I did see The Politician’s Wife and it was indeed smashing. JS is a good actress but when she was very young she was more than just good: she was ‘brilliant’; she was fearless, and I’m not talking about being seen with snot on the end of her nose; I’m talking about raw emotion without histrionics. She was great friends with Fiona Shaw, who is one of the most ‘adventurous’ actresses ever (like a young Glenda Jackson). They were shining stars and only the latter has remained true to her young self. When before there was stillness and strength, there is now a restlessness about JS that is very tiring to watch.

    Most of the reviews for The Seagull have been damning; one even used the word ‘perverse’, like me. I slapped Juliet because, a) this is where I air my prejudices (and they are many) and I don’t care if I’m unfair sometimes; b) I know her and she’s been annoying for a while; but, you’re right, the main Slappee should be Katie Mitchell (I’ve suffered through other bad productions of hers – I must be a masochist). Juliet is an intelligent woman; I don’t believe she would do anything just to pay the rent (she could do more well-paid TV voice-overs for that). She must have done this because she believed in it. The production also boasts Ben Whishaw, who was praised for his Hamlet (it was on at a time when I would have had a nervous breakdown if I’d been asked to see one more production of that play, so I missed it). His talent is also wasted in this Seagull. It’s a disgrace.

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  6. I too must admit to enjoying the snot-blowing crying scenes in TMD because American actresses are so obsessed with maintaining their beauty that they cry hygienically. Their eyes never even swell! Ticks me off. I suppose it WAS overacting, but since it took her in an unflattering direction, I found it delightful.

    The Rickman-Eeyore analogy is priceless. That's EXACTLY why I love him. I had stuffed Pooh dolls as a kid, and Eeyore was my favorite: "Are you calling me or have you already found another friend by the same name?" What a shameless depressive!

    Re: the "Dame" comment. I'm sure you're right. Have you noticed that mere time seems to qualify some people for respect they didn't really earn? I don't have anything against Sting and Bono, for instance, but they're just the decent rock musicians they always were, yet they now get treated like brilliantly talented trailblazing rock gods. Same for female musicians who get called "divas" just for continuing to record mediocre music over a number of years. And many of them have gotten WORSE! Consider Phil Collins. Anyway, it's the same for actors, so I'm sure you're right about the "Dame" thing.

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  7. It’s so funny, WW: that's exactly what my partner said when I wondered aloud why that scene had appealed so much to some people (not just to American viewers., either): they’d never seen an actress go to such extremes before. I admired her courage for doing it but I knew ‘why’ she was doing it and it annoyed me.

    I discovered Eeyore and his friends very late in life (they weren’t part of my French childhood) but I adore them. Eeyore is very special. :-)

    Juliet will be made a Dame eventually, when she’s a bit older, I’m sure. Titles always go to the wrong people and very often, as you say, just because they’ve stayed the course. Longevity shouldn’t be synonymous with talent. And some also get them for the wrong reason: for being in LOTR , for instance, after acting in the Classics for years. Really! Sir This sounds ridiculous anyway, but Dame That is totally preposterous. The only one who absolutely deserved such recognition is the wondrous Judi Dench (you should have seen her on stage when she was young – before she started doing mediocre films in her sleep). She’s a National Treasure too. I doubt Juliet will ever be one.

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