Friday, January 9, 2009

Hysterical Blindness (2002)

Uma Thurman = A
Thurman gives her first Gena Rowlands performance, appropriately in a movie that features the actor. And by that I meant hat she is playing a woman who is quite tangibly on the edge, a woman who is so damaged for whatever reason that she can't even hold down a boyfriend if she tried. Thurman achieves grand, dizzying depths with the character of Debbie Miller, although the character isn't as layered as some of the Cassavetes 'heroines'. From the very first frame she's in, Thurman inhabits the woman, and she controls and dominates this sometimes uneven and messed film. She's awkward, she's too forthright, she understands far too little and she's pretty much an elegant mess. She doesn't achieve the same kind of greatness that Rowlands did with Cassavetes, but there's a lot to love here and Thurman does more than what the film asks of her. There's a tragic pathos in her second meeting with Rick that is so tragic, restrained and simply heartbreaking that it speaks volumes of what this woman can do on the screen. And nothing, nothing in this movie beats her much delayed and much needed realization: "What's wrong with me?" Can people start giving her more roles like this? (Kudos to director Mira Nair for using Uma Thurman's height to her advantage; Thurman has never looked so beautiful and yet so awkward on screen.)

Gena Rowlands = B+
For the majority of the film, Gena Rowlands is a non-factor; merely radiating warmth from the edge of the frame and providing welcome support to Thurman's antics. It's not until a plot turn late-game that Rowlands comes into her prime and transmits to us a harrowing scene on the telephone. (A lot of actors do some of their best work on the telephone. Streep in Adaptation, Leung in Happy Together. Just a note. Not that this ranks among Rowlands best work, but her best work in the film definite.) It's a perfect example of why Rowlands is still one of the best working actresses of her generation that continues to deliver very subtle and nuanced performances even in roles that are are almost barely there.

Juliette Lewis = C
Lewis is a weak link in this film only because she shares her scenes with Thurman and cedes every one up to her star, which works for the film but not her performance. Lewis is never overtly bad, but there's very little to cling onto here. It's a paper-thin character and one that you can hardly remember after the credits roll.

Ben Gazzara = B
Gazzara doesn't have a great deal of scenes or a great deal of time within those scenes to make an impact, but he manages to transmit just as much warmth as Rowland's does and his closing scene in the film is a very warm and fuzzy moments in which he plays off Thurman well and almost steals a scene from her. But, this isn't a performance of greatness and it does what it needs to.

Overall Film Grade = A

1 comment:

  1. This was a brilliant film, one I need to revisit again. To this day I cannot hear Pat Benatars' 'Invincible' without cringing.