Jane Alexander received her second Oscar nomination for her performance as Judy Hoback in All the President's Men.
All the President's Men is a brilliant movie about the two Washington Post reporters who uncovered the details of the Watergate scandal. It's a wonderful film that benefits from an absolutely terrific screenplay, a pitch-perfect direction and an excellent editing: these three elements combined make the movie a wonderfully gripping and compelling portrayal of its story. The actors are mostly very good as well: both Dustin Hoffman and (especially) Robert Redford make for very interesting leads to follow, which is quite an achievement considering that the roles could have been incredibly thin. Hal Holbrook's performance is terrific and he easily should have received a Best Supporting Actor nod.
Judy Hoback is a very small role: Alexander has about five minutes of screen-time and two scenes, the second of which is extremely brief. Nonetheless, it's quite an interesting and important role: she is the bookkeeper of the Comittee for the Re-Election of the President and she is aware of some very important informations that could be extremely helpful for Woodward (Redford) and Bernstein (Hoffman). Her first scene, in which Bernstein visits her in an attempt to gain those informations, is actually a pivotal one for the story and there's quite a strong build-up to it: unfortunately, the problem here is really Alexander, whom I find to be a very talented actress but who completely fails to deliver on all fronts here. The scene still works because of how well-written it is and because of how good Hoffman is in it, but unfortunately Alexander doesn't match their high quality and while she is nothing atrociously and spectacularly bad she isn't really anything either. When she first appears, Hoback is supposed to be extremely scared and nervous considering the importance of the informations he wants her to disclose, but I really didn't get any of these feelings from her performance: not because she portrays those emotions badly, but because she barely shows any emotion at all. Her performance is simply dull: she speaks with a plain, monotonous voice that doesn't convey the panic of the character and the fact that she basically keeps the same facial expression throughout the whole scene doesn't really help either. She fares a little better with her body language as she does give a sense of uncomfortableness which is actually very fitting to the character, but it hardly makes up for the inadequacies of the rest of her work. Her performance mostly consists of emotionless stares and deep breaths and while she never becomes distracting she is surprisingly boring and pale while she is supposed to be the center of the scene. To be fair, she does give a few hints of the better performance she could have given - some brief, well-done facial expressions and a couple of strong line-deliveries ("If you guys could get John Mitchell that would be beautiful" or "Well, I can't say that it would positively prove that they planned the break-in but it would come pretty close") but it's a bit too little to save the rest of her performance. She just never came off as scared as she should have been and she just is quite forgettable while the role allowed for far more. Her second scene almost doesn't count as she barely does anything in it - again, nothing bad or nothing that stands out in the wrong fashion but it's still nothing that stands out at all.
Overall, there is just not that much to say about this performance. I don't think she is bad at all, but I think the role allowed for a one-scene-wonder and she is far from it. I think Jane Alexander is a very good actress and I've liked her elsewhere but here she just fails to live up to the great build-up she is given: she is just bland and forgettable and lets Hoffman control the scene instead of acting as a good match for him. A few good moments here and there can't save this otherwise unremarkable performance.