Sunday, January 4, 2009

SUPPORTING ACTRESS BLOG-A-THON: Natalie Portman as Leslie in My Blueberry Nights

Film criticism is a subjective topic, which is why I find it so interesting. People get different things out of movies, directors and, in this case, performances. What one person sees in a performance, may not be the same thing that another sees in it. The same is true in terms of quality; where some people see a horrible performance, others see a thing of beauty, depth and clarity.

Ironically, Natalie Portman's performance doesn't really fall into the area between that; she is one of the few parts of this movie that has been consistently praised. Which makes it kind of odd that it's getting none of attention at year's end. However; the movie is a thing of calm divisiveness. Nobody loves this movie, and nobody hates it. I fall into the 'sort of love' category, even though this is the 'least strong' of Wong Kar-Wai's films. (I just feel a little bit traitorish calling any of his films weakest.)

Onto the point; Natalie Portman's performance in the role of Leslie is my favourite of hers, and she's had an underrated career with Leon, Closer and Garden State under her belt. But, this performance is all of the things I described above: A thing of a beauty, of depth, and of clarity.

As a character, Leslie is a quiet mess. She's a gambler, with her cards held close to her chest. Excuse the pun. She has no big scenes, except maybe the confession scene, but Portman illuminates parts of her character with simple gestures, like the way she stands or even tilts her head and her line-reading of: "But always cut the cards." is my choice for the best line-reading of the year.

To bring things full circle; Portman's performances is a thing of greatness to me because it touches me, it speaks to me. There's something about the character of Leslie, and how Portman interprets it, that makes me empathize. She's a bunch of contradictions; wanting to achieve but not wanting to compromise herself to get that; cynical but with enough core ideals that she's not flat, and much more overtly and to reuse the pun, to keep her cards close to her chest while bravely playing them.

Come and see more performances at StinkyLulu's!

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