Andie Macdowell = B+
Now, this is not to say that Andie MacDowell is a talented actress by any stretch of the imagination; she's not. But, I think she gives a great performance in this movie, despite or perhaps because of her limitations as an actress. Anne is a mundane character, or at least I think she's written as such, and MacDowell is a rather mundane actress with an unspecific, wooden kind of charisma. So, this actress is rather a perfect fit for the character. Limited as MacDowell is, I will give her a tremendous amoutn of credit for guiding the audience through her two character shifts; before her video interview and after it. She makes them totally believable andn ot at all a stretch for this character. Still; I feel like I'm giving MacDowell a lot of credit for doing a serviceable performance of a great character, I can only wonder what a more talented actress might have done with the part, a young Julianne Moore, Linda Fiorentino, Michelle Pfeiffer, Uma Thurman or even Julia Roberts. I'll give MacDowell credit where it's due, though.
James Spader = A
Is this the role that started Spader off on his chain of weird characters? And by chain, I mean Crash and Secretary. Which is more weird than many other actors put together. Anyway, this is really the kind of character that Spader excels at most. A lesser actor might possibly have played up the 'depravity' and made this character a kind of messed up, Norman Bates, kind of guy. However, Spader seems to empathize with his character and plays him as a human, he doesn't fall into the many pitfalls that he could have and creates Graham as a haracter that is plapably and ultimately real. I'm really going in circles with this, but it's a credit to Spader that his performance is so lived in and perfectly played that you can simply recognise it as a great performance, even if you can't describe exactly what makes it so.
Peter Gallagher = B-
How bad do you need to be in a movie to have your scenes stolen from you by Andie MacDowell? I kid, I kid; because Peter Gallagher isn't really bad in this movie. The only reason why his character reads as less of an achievement than the others in the film is because it's written as such; we're very rarely provided his perspective on things and the film skims over any big moments that John could have. Gallagher does very well with what he's given, and if I had a better understanding of the film, I'm sure he's quite perfectly representing something in particular, but I don't so I won't go into that. The one thing I count against him is that towards the end, he tends to demonize and simplify his charater a bit, the confrontation with John isn't really believable because of him, but Gallagher finds ground with this character again in his final scene and so I forgive him for it. A little bit. (As a side-note, because I can't mention this anywhere else, John has a single worst moment in the film when he punches Graham and an -awful- sound-byte makes it sound as though he's punched Graham down the stairs, rather than just onto the floor. It kind of takes you out of the scene, not that I'm blaming Peter Gallagher for that.)
Laura San Giacomo = A
I really like Giacomo in this role, and it's sad that nobody capitalized on her vivacity and incisiveness after this film. (No, Just Shoot Me doesn't count. However much I like the show.) Giacomo has a heavy role in the film, she's the only character who really -does- anything, she catalyses the other characters and connects the links in the plot. She also acts the surrogate for the audience, it's mostly through her that we get an inside to all the lives and minds of these chaacters. However, my favourite achievement of Giacomo is that she does a reverse of what I love about many performances; she's not afraid to make her character likeable. That is to say, that I enjoy when actors don't make their characters particularly likeable and just play them straight. However, on paper, Cynthia is not a likeable character, but Giacomo makes her as such without seeming to strive to make her likeable. Major bonus points for the perfectly played video scene, all the little gestures and nuances in the performance mesh together to make it my favourite scene in the movie. (My personal best supporting actress of 1989, for the record.)
Film Grade: B+