sabato 29 luglio 2017

Best Actress in a Supporting Role 1975: Lily Tomlin in Nashville

Lily Tomlin received her first Oscar nomination for her performance as Linnea Reese in Nashville.

Nashville is a brilliant movie about various people connected to the music business in Nashville over the few days surrounding a political convention. It's an engaging, captivating experience from start to finish that benefits greatly from an absolutely amazing screenplay that gives depth and humanity to each of its characters. Like in every ensemble movie, some of the characters/performances overshadow others - but what's so great about Nashville is that every performance, even if it's not necessarily memorable per se, adds something to the movie. Everything about Nashville comes together beautifully: there is not a single false note in this piece. The satire involving both the musical and the political world is handled very cleverly, as it is clearly evident but it's never heavy-handed. This is just an incredible film.

Lily Tomlin plays the role of gospel singer Linnea Reese, which is just one among the many characters in the movie. It's the kind of role that could have easily disappeared in a movie like this: between charismatic music stars, sly manipulators and hopeful wannabes, a character as ordinary as Linnea could have appeared completely bland and uninteresting. But Lily Tomlin manages to take this quality of the character - its ordinarity - and make it its biggest strength, turning Linnea into the most relatable and human figure in the movie. Tomlin is an actress best known for her comedic work and her usually colorful, loud screen-presence, so it's quite astonishing to see how capable of subtlety she actually is - her performance in Nashville couldn't be more gentle and restrained. She completely denies her usual persona both on and off the screen embodying so effortlessly the simple reality of this woman. Her greatest achievement is her ability to make every single moment of her performance stand out in a way: Tomlin does not have a lot of screen-time in the movie and she has basically just one truly big scene, but she manages to make every little detail of her work here count. She's just quite wonderful in her few scenes that show her singing with her choir - she has a lovely voice and she exudes joy and radiance during those brief numbers. And she's fantastic in the few scenes that take place at Linnea's home, fleshing out Linnea's relationship with her children and her husband (Ned Beatty) completely in just a few minutes. I love each of Linnea's moments with her kids, who are both deaf - she perfectly conveys the patience, warmth and motherly love of the characters and she manages to achieve this while seemingly doing almost nothing. Her minimalistic approach works wonders for the character, and just with the encouraging smile on her face as she listens to her kid she expresses all we need to know. She barely has any screen-time with Beatty but both actors are great at just conveying the present state of their relationship -  there is a certain degree of affection between the two of them, but certainly not love, let alone passion. They realistically portray just a certain indifference in their relationship, almost a resignation that their marriage is not a very passionate one.

The crux of Tomlin's role and performance revolves around the character of Tom (Keith Carradine), a handsome but shallow singer who takes an interest in her, calling at her house multiple times trying to arrange a meeting between the two of them. Tomlin is absolutely terrific in each of those scenes as she conveys an incredible variety of feelings with very little dialogue: during the phone calls, she often just listens and quietly reacts and Tomlin never misses any single emotional beat, portraying her character's emotional turmoil with subtlety and restraint. She does not need to verbally express her worry, her vulnerability and her curiosity, because you can read the feelings of the character right across her face and her small gestures. Her big scene occurs when Linnea agrees to come to a club and watch Tom perform: it's an absolutely phenomenal scene and Tomlin does an incredible job at conveying even the tiniest emotion of the character. I love the way she at first tries to sit next to Tom but, upon seeing he's with another woman, sits alone in the back of the club - it's all done in such a natural and spontaneous way. And of course her greatest moment is the famous long-shot of Linnea as she listens Tom singing "I'm Easy" (which is probably one of the best Oscar-winning songs ever): it's perhaps the most beautiful scene in the entire movie and Tomlin does an absolutely amazing job at portraying her slow, gradual realization that he's singing to her. What I love the most is that Tomlin does not betray the quiet nature of the character in this scene: while other actresses might have been tempted to go for a showier approach, she remains extremely subdued in it, expressing her character's emotional state with her face and her eyes while sitting still, overcome by the emotion. It's the character's key scene and it comes at such a perfect moment it amplifies the power of her whole performance. She's also great in her final scene with Carradine, in which Linnea prepares to leave Tom's room after they had sex and he already calls another woman: Tomlin is excellent as, without saying a word basically, she brings so much maturity and cleverness to the character of Linnea - she is not going to be one of Tom's girls who consistently pine for him: they had sex, and now she's perfectly aware of her own responsabilities and that they must part ways. Out of all the characters in Nashville, she's probably the one with most dignity of all. 

Linnea Reese is not a large role, but Lily Tomlin makes the most out of it and delivers a magnificent, unforgettable performance that is an absolute masterclass in subtlety. It's such a quiet, intelligent, realistic and moving performance - after the movie was over, I felt like I really knew and understood the character completely. I already admired the performance when I first saw it, but watching it a second time made me truly understand its greatness. It's a brilliant, unforgettable achievement in an excellent movie. 


15 commenti:

  1. Tomlin gave an amazing performance, she's a 4,5 for me, but verging on a 5.
    I love this movie and it's one of my favorites and your introduction was simply fantastic, you summarised the concept of the movie briefly but it was also very detailed.
    What's your ratings and thoughts on the rest of the cast? I hope you loved Gwen Welles performance as much as i do.

    1. Thank you!

      Arkin - 2.5 (He's perfectly fine in his purposefully one-note role though he never leaves that much of an impact)

      Baxley - 3 (It's a pretty loud performance, which works for the character since she is supposed to be pretty much drunk all the time. I don't love her performance, but she does everything she is required to do more than adequately)

      Beatty - 3 (As I mentioned in my review he's very good in his scenes with Tomlin, perfectly realizing the state of their relationship. Past that, I thought he did an effective job in his limied screen-time at portraying his character's viciousness, particularly in his final scene with Welles)

      Black - 3.5 (Limited in terms of screen-time but I thought her work was an especially interesting counterpoint to Blakley's Barbara Jean. Whereas Blakley portrays Barbara Jean as having a genuinely good-hearted spirit, Black effectively shows that Connie's nice persona on stage is pretty much a put on, and she's quite striking in her few moments off-stage at portraying her true, self-absorbed self)

      Brown - 2.5 (He's good in the scenes in which he performs and he's also perfectly fine in his few other scenes, but he doesn't have that much to do overall)

      Carradine - 3.5 (It's a limited role but he fulfills its needs perfectly. He's properly charismatic in the role and is perfectly cast as the handsome star, but he also does a very effective job at portraying his character's hollowness in his more private moments. Plus, his rendition of "I'm Easy" is absolutely amazing)

      Chaplin - 4.5 (I found her performance to be absolutely wonderful and I loved every minute she was on-screen. Opal could have been such an annoying character yet Chaplin is so good in the role I loved every minute she was on-screen: she's hilarious in her portrayal of her character's wackiness and it's such a delight watching her attempts to interview the celebrities over the course of the movie due to her wonderfully entertaining portrayal. I particularly love the scene at the "graveyard" which is absolutely hilarious)

      DoQui - 3.5 (Rather moving performance actually as I felt he did a very good job at portraying a sincere concern towards Welles' character as well as his exhasperation due to her stubborness. It's a limited role as it is mostly defined by his relationship with Welles but he's effective within those limitations)

      Duvall - 3 (She's perfectly fine in the role as the celebrity-seeking groupie and she's enjoyable whenever she is on-screen though I never felt she left that much of an impact)

      Garfield - 3 (I liked his scenes with Blakley as I felt he did a good job at portraying his character's manipulative behavior towards his wife, even if he was overshadowed by her in those scenes. He's good though not really that impressive)

      Gibson - 4 (I felt he brought the right sort of charisma to his role and he has the right sort of presence in the singing scenes. In his scenes off-stage, Gibson is very effective at portraying a more arrogant and self-absorbed side to the character as well as conveying effectively his underlying political ambitions)

      Glenn - 2.5 (He's properly nice in the role though he doesn't have to do much)

    2. Goldblum - (I don't really know how to rate this performance. It's barely a role to begin with and I probably wouldn't have paid much attention to him if it wasn't for the fact that he's Jeff Goldblum)

      Harris - 3.5 (She is properly enjoyable and endearing in her role as the hopeful wannabe and certainly was a welcome presence whenever she was on-screen. It's a rather one-note role for the most part but she appropriately delivers in her final scene which is pretty powerful)

      Hayward - 3 (He is good at suggesting an underlying creepiness in his behavior and his pivotal moment is certainly quite striking, even if it's not among the movie's most memorable performances)

      Murphy - 3.5 (Effective work from him. He is good at conveying a certain urgency in his pleasant behavior, perfectly suggesting his character's true motivation throughout the whole movie. It's a one-note role but it's key to the political satire of the movie)

      Nicholls - 3 (Fine performance and does well in his confrontation scenes with Raines though I never felt he left that much of an impact)

      Raines - 3.5 (She's pretty good in the role as she conveys both the passion and desperation in her scenes with Carradine while being so effecively passive-aggressive in her scenes with Nicholls. Her reactionary shots during the "I'm Easy" scene are also quite effective, though the scene belongs to Carradine and especially Tomlin)

      Welles - 4.5 (An underrated performance as I thought she was terrific in the role. She solves the tricky singing scenes quite well as she manages to be a genuinely bad singer without ever becoming over-the-top. Past that, she's extremely moving in her portrayal of her character's struggle, being particularly devastating in the striptease scene, while portraying a stubborn hopefulness in her behavior as she is completely unwilling to acknowledge her lack of talent)

      Wynn - 3.5 (He's enjoyable in his consistent attempts to get Duvall's character to visit his sick wife, and then he's quite moving towards the end of his storyline in his portrayal of his character's plight)

    3. Questo commento è stato eliminato dall'autore.

    4. I'm glad you liked Welles as much as i do, she's a 5 for me, but she's not my winner. I thought she was terrific in her role and devastating in the striptease scene.

      Talking about 1975 supporting actresses, do you Fletcher is supporting in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest? And have you seen Picnic at Hanging Rock?

    5. Yes, I do think Fletcher is supporting in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. And I have seen Picnic at Hanging Rock.

    6. What did you think of Picnic at Hanging Rock as a movie? What are your ratings and thoughts on Rachel Roberts and the rest of the cast?

    7. Picnic at Hanging Rock is a movie that could be frustrating to some due to the fact that its mystery is left unresolved and many of the characters often remain very enigmatic. Well, personally I loved the movie for the most part and that's largely due to Peter Weir's atmospheric direction. It's a very captivating and interesting experience and one that haunts you long after it's over. Also, the cinematography is nothing short of sensational, capturing so well the beautiful landscape but also enhancing the sometimes dream-like, sometimes nightmarish tone of the story. My only issue with the movie is that I found the subplot involving Michael's and the valet's quest to find the girls rather unnecessary and far less interesting than the relationship between the women in the school.

      Roberts - 5 (An amazing performance that should be far more remembered nowadays. Roberts is excellent in the early scenes of the movie bringing the right sort of authority to the stern Mrs. Appleyard, and then as the movie progresses she does a terrific job at revealing more layers to her personality. She is particularly great in her scenes opposite Margaret Nelson as she does such a chilling job at portraying a more sadistic and outright evil side of Mrs. Appleyard. Their final scene together is especially impressive due to Roberts' subtly venomous delivery. Past those moments, Roberts is terrific at portraying her character's mental deterioration as she grows progressively more distressed over the whole situation, building up excellently to her final scenes in which she powerfully portrays Mrs. Appleyard as a drunken, neurotic mess. It's an excellent turn full of small, interesting details that is always startling to watch even after a few times)

      Lambert - 4.5 (Very short performance but I thought she was absolutely terrific in her brief screen-time. Lambert brings an incredible amount of grace to the character and conveys a certain other-worldliness that makes her a particularly compelling and fascinating character. In her few scenes on-screen, Lambert is excellent at suggesting that there is much more to Miranda than what meets the eye - she does not exactly define the truth of the character, which is exactly the point. She really makes Miranda the haunting mystery she is supposed to be)

      Morse - 4 (Really nice performance from her. It's probably the movie's most straightforward character but she provides for its emotional crux. Her quiet, warm portrayal of the compassionate teacher serves as the movie's conscience and Morse deserves a lot of credit for leaving an impact but with a potentially bland role)

      Gray - 3.5 (I thought she gave a rather interesting performance in her brief screen-time. She makes Mrs. Craw, too, a fascinatingly mysterious character with each of her line-delivery being appropriately puzzling and mysterious. She too leaves a strong impression that hangs all over the movie even after she leaves the screen)

      Nelson - 3.5 (There might be a couple of moments in her performance that were somewhat awkward, but otherwise I liked her a lot. She is properly touching in the role of the mistreated orphan and is very good in her portrayal of her own personal plight due to Miranda's disappearence. She's particularly good in her final scene with Roberts, with her final reaction being especially memorable)

      Schuler - 2 (Aside from Lambert and Nelson, I felt the other girls in the school were all fine but not especially memorable. Schuler though stands out in the wrong way by giving such a shrill and unbearable performance that I found consistently grating in a role that could have been quite moving)

      Guard and Jarrat - 2 (As I mentioned before I really don't care for the section of the movie involving their characters. Neither of them is bad but they just were sort of there for me without adding much of anything to the movie)

    8. I really liked Picnic at Hanging Rock and i loved Roberts' performance and I agree with everything you said on her and the movie.

  2. Amazing performance, but it is still nowhere near Blakley's performance. The nashville girls easily turn this year into a strong year.

    1. We'll see if I prefer Tomlin's or Blakley's performance :) But yeah, their performance certainly improve the quality of an otherwise fairly weak year for the category (at least in terms of the nominated performances).

  3. Great great movie, I'm glad you love it.

    1. It's quite simply a masterpiece in my opinion.

  4. Agree that Welles and DuQoi are fairly underrated, and 'I'm Easy' is an amazing song. I don't love the film but it's certainly an extremely well-made one. As for Tomlin, I think her performance while watching Carradine sing alone was worthy of the nomination in itself.

    1. I'm glade you like Tomlin's performance as well. She really floored me on a rewatch.