Month: March 2014

Performance of the week: Helen Hayes in The Sin of Madelon Claudet (1931)

20140331-150601.jpg

Helen Hayes, “The First Lady of the American Theatre”, won her first Oscar for playing Madelon Claudet in The Sin of Madelon Claudet.

The Sin of Madelon Claudet is a very, very, dated film. It’s almost 83 years old (!), and to be honest I find it quite mediocre as a whole. On one hand, I don’t want to judge it for its age, but then again there are some brilliant classics from that era, like It Happened One Night and of course, Gone With the Wind (which is more modern than some of the 50s films even). This movie is intended to be a melodramatic weepie, but with only a mere 1h15mins for its runtime, everything just feels too rushed for its own good. Just imagine that in 20 minutes alone (spoilers ahead, although the story is too predictable to really “spoil”), we get to see how Madelon is settling in her second marriage, how she is implicated for a crime she did not commit, then sentenced to jail for 10 years and released!

Other than that, it is also quite stagey, especially the design of the sets and the way the actors enter and leave the scene.

Thankfully, Helen Hayes enters this movie and elevates it to another level altogether. I haven’t watched a lot of a Helen Hayes’ films, other than Anastasia (1956), in which she (in my opinion) out-acted the Oscar winner of that movie Ingrid Bergman, whom I usually love fyi. I have also watched clips of her second Oscar winning performance in Airport, and from what I gather, she seems to be the kind of actress who can command the screen effortlessly, pretty much like divine Dame Judi Dench.

In The Sin of Madelon Claudet (I really don’t want to type this out anymore), Helen Hayes gives what I consider one of the most natural performance of that era. It’s really remarkable work, especially given how melodramatic the material that she had to work with was. There are really terrific moments throughout her performance that she plays with extreme subtlety. One would the famous child birth scene, where she wished the baby was dead. It’s a really haunting scene, and you could see the exhaustion and pain of the character. What is even more remarkable is how naturally she transits from that depressive state to motherly love when she finally lays her eyes on her son.

20140331-153344.jpg
There are a few other truly terrific moments that I remember vividly: her fear and desperation when she was arrested, her pain which was seen through her eyes (despite acting cheerful) when she decided not to reveal her identity to her son, and finally when she was a broken down prostitute.

20140331-153445.jpg
Madelon goes from point A to point F, a naive girl who thinks she’s in love, to a broken down, bitter woman who will do anything for her son. Hayes’ really showed how Madelon’s life had worn her down. It’s a really masterful performance that I feel should be used in acting classes.

As mentioned earlier, the movie’s transition between these different phases of Madelon’s life is very abrupt, and it’s really up to Hayes’ understanding and grasp of the character to not make it seem like different interpretations. For the most part, she succeeds. I always felt that this was the same Madelon I’ve watched right from the beginning. However, the nature of the film did affect the impact of the performance a little as everything happens way too fast. Because of the brevity of each phase, I felt that the performance was held back from being the truly devastating work it could have been.

I also felt that her earlier scenes were bothering on theatrical, like when she was settling into her first marriage with that loser Larry Claudet. It’s not bad, but the acting was a bit obvious there. I just find it a bit funny when the two of them pressed their faces together and looked upwards with that blissful expression.

20140331-154125.jpg
Still, this is a very very minor issue, and honestly speaking, I have seen much worse from that era. The naturalism from the rest of her performance makes up for it.

All in all, this is a masterful performance (with a few flaws) from a legendary actress who’s a bit forgotten nowadays. It really showed the talent that Helen Hayes had, and I would even say that her naturalism in this role is more well handled some of the modern performances I’ve seen today. 4.5/5.

20140331-154346.jpg

Five Easy Pieces (1970)

Five Easy Pieces (1970) tells the story of Bobby (played by Jack Nicholason), a trained concert pianist turned oil rig worker who comes from a musician family, and what happened when he decided to visit his sick father.

In my humble opinion, Five Easy Pieces is a truly fantastic film. I’m this close to calling it a masterpiece. However, I must also admit that it’s not for everyone; there isn’t really a plot and the pace is very slow. In fact, I would say that it is definitely a character study more than anything. But even so, every moment to me is a crucial detail in making the film a masterpiece that it is. For me, the reason why the film works so well is because of how much I could resonate with it. Basically, the film addresses the angst, confusion, identity crisis and feelings of hopelessness among the people of that era. All these feelings are concentrated in the story’s protagonist Bobby. Although he comes from an affluent background, it is very clear that he was never able to fit into his family, and that he never thought highly of their elitist attitudes. Rebellion is basically his way of expressing himself; be it through running away from home, working in an oil rig, sleeping around with women or mistreating his girlfriend Rayette. What I particularly admire about the film was how Bobby’s emotions were subtly conveyed through his interactions with the people around him, and how they defined him as a person. He NEVER ever expresses his feelings directly, and yet they are all so palpable and raw. With his girlfriend, we see him as a, well, truly heartless son of a bitch, and yet there are hints of his guilt towards his mistreatment of her, such as when he decided to take her along to see his family instead of abandoning her. With his sister, we get to see his more tender, albeit distant side. With Catherine (and the rest of his family basically), we get to see why he became the angst-ridden individual that he is, and why he feels so frustrated with the rest of the world. One scene that was really memorable to me was when he played the piano for Catherine, and how he humiliated her by saying that he did not feel anything while playing despite her being truly moved by his playing. Personally, I think Bobby does have a love for music and playing the piano, but what he truly despised was the social status and prestige that people attached to it. His angry outburst against the family’s snobbish friend who was mocking Rayette really spoke volumes about him to me.

I must also add that the reason why the film worked, other than it’s sophisticated characterization of Bobby, is because of Jack Nicholson’s truly incredible performance here, where he received his first Oscar nomination for lead actor. I used to think that Jack Nicholson was more of a movie star than great actor, but that was because I had a very limited knowledge of his movies (only watched Something’s Gotta Give, The Departed, As Good as It Gets). However, as I got to rediscover his earlier works in the 70s, such as Chinatown, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Reds, I really understand why he is (deservedly) considered a legendary actor. To be honest, I find his performance here the best I’ve ever seen (Btw I don’t agree with all of his Oscar wins except maybe Cuckoo’s Nest). It’s an incredibly difficult and complex character that could have been played as a one note bastard. However, even in the earlier scenes he already hints that there’s an underlying sadness and pain that resulted in Bobby adopting his, well, YOLO approach to life. His final (and only) dialogue with his father in the end was one of the best acted scenes I have seen from Nicholson, and that scene alone provides the clarity needed to understand Bobby as a person. He really showed how Bobby’s father was a major influence, and probably a controlling figure, in his past, and how that affected his outlook on life. Like I said, it’s a very complicated character but Nicholson uses raw emotions to characterize Bobby, making it look effortless and realistic while doing so.

Another performance that really stood out was Karen Black’s Oscar nominated role as Rayette. The dumb girlfriend role has always been awards bait, but Black took the role one step further and turned it into heartbreaking gold. Her character is fairly simple; she dreams of breaking out of her current job as a waitress to work as a country singer, and her main goal in life is to love Bobby. It’s impossible to not feel sorry for her when the snobbish lady was mocking her, or when Bobby is treating her like dirt (“Why can’t you be good to me for a change?”).

All in all, it’s a movie that can be quite hard to watch because of its slow pace but it’s a truly fascinating character study of that era and the sentiments of its people. 4.5/5.

Doctor Zhivago (1965)

I’M BACK!

It has been a hell period for the past 2 weeks. I basically went back to school everyday, even during the weekends to rush projects. And we stayed till pretty late a couple of times too, like past midnight once. Of course, the school term isn’t over and I still have my finals, and yet the exams seem so trivial in comparison to all these major presentations and group reports submissions. I basically cleared 3 major presentations this week and submitted 2 reports, and yeah, lost a lot of sleep. It wasn’t so much of rushing to meet deadlines since I’m not someone who do things last minute, but the constant anxiety about whether our presentation is going to be fine, and the need to memorise 3 different scripts for 3 different presentations that just kept me tossing and turning in bed. I’ve been having pretty bad headaches too. Yeah. Well, I still have a minor presentation next week and another group report 2 weeks later but things have definitely eased up. A lot. I’m just so happy because I don’t need to GO BACK TO SCHOOL TOMORROW (and this weekend)! Just one day of not needing to smell the SMU corridors makes me so happy.

I know school is supposed to be important, but this right now...is the face of EVIL.

I know school is supposed to be important, but this right now…is the face of evil.

I was contemplating whether to do a reflection post about school, but I’ve decided to do that when this semester is really over. like with finals over and results released etc. It feels so strange to be talking about life and all after doing all these movie posts. Then again, this blog has always been intended to be an outlet for my insights on life, and since I’m a movie fanatic…well, it basically revolves around that.

Let’s talk about something fun, shall we?

Doctor Zhivago (1965)

Please understand that I watched this 3 weeks ago so I’m really writing based on what I can recall.

Doctor Zhivago (1965) tells the love story of a russian doctor (played by Omar Sharif) and the wife of a political activist (played by Julie Christie) during the Bolshevik Revolution.

I’ve read some pretty negative reviews for the movie, and also some genuinely positive ones, who even say that this movie should have won the best picture Oscar over The Sound of Music. On a whole, I really loved the film, but I wouldn’t say that it’s on a masterpiece level and hence “robbed” of that award (The Sound of Music is guilty pleasure). I loved the technical aspects the most actually. I know this sounds silly, but it really made the film such a magnificent and romantic experience (which is understandably what some people hate about it). The score is easily my favourite part. Haha, I never knew that “Somewhere My Love” actually came from this movie! I mean, it’s such an iconic tune that’s frequently used in commercials and yet I never wondered where it came from. Of course, the cinematography is breathtaking as well, especially the shots of Yuri trudging through the snow, which were both harrowing and beautiful at the same time. I think David Lean’s direction was pretty great, although I think his work is Lawrence of Arabia was better. While the overall tone of the film is skewed towards romantic, he really constructed an intense and claustrophobic atmosphere in some scenes, such as when Yuri and his family were cramped into the train, and when he was being interrogated by “Stelnikov”.

The acting was also top-notch. Omar Sharif’s casting is a bit strange since I wouldn’t have considered him “russian looking”, but his acting was really great. Unlike Peter O’ Toole  in Lawrence of Arabia, Sharif’s performance is one that mostly reacts to his characer’s circumstances, and yet he managed to say so much about his character with his eyes. It’s a quiet performance, yet everything comes so naturally and subtly from him, pretty much like how his character subtly expresses his views in the poems he wrote. I thought he portrayed the character’s flaws very convincingly as well, like how his infidelity towards his wife was something that happened “naturally” instead of a conscious choice. Julie Christie was also great (a compensation for my not so kind review of her performance in Shampoo). She actually won the Oscar for her performance in Darling the same year, but I thought this performance was equally strong. Her beauty really helped in bringing out the mysterious and alluring qualities of the character, but she also effectively used her emotions to portray Lara’s confusion and self-doubt about how “naive” and “innocent” she really is. (Her expression after the “rape” scene says a lot). The 2 supporting performances that really stood out for me were by Rod Steiger and Tom Courtenay. Tom Courtenay was (deservedly) nominated for his chilling performance as Stelnikov, and I thought he did a fantastic job in showing how the character  naturally changed from being a passionate man driven by his ideals to a cold-hearted monster despite his brief screen time.  However, it was really Rod Steiger who stuck out as the initially charming Komarovsky who seemed so intelligent and in control of the situation at first, but turned out to be a slimy bastard and loser in the end. I really loved his performance, it was brilliant.

The problem I had with the film is actually pretty much consistent with the criticisms, but I must add that it didn’t bother me as much. I just didn’t find the love story between Yuri and Lara extremely convincing, even though I know it constitutes the second half of the entire film. I believed that the writing played a part…the earlier scenes where they were working today seem to portray them more of as “close friends” rather than lovers, so it made the reunification later seem so strange because they immediately slept together. Yes, I praised their acting but I didn’t find the chemistry between the 2 actors very strong. In fact, I thought the love story between Yuri and his wife Tonya (played excellently by Geraldine Chaplin) was even more subtle, heartbreaking and beautiful.

So overall, Doctor Zhivago is a really grand epic that I wouldn’t mind re-watching despite its long screen time. I think Lawrence of Arabia was still Lean’s better film, but this one was pretty magnificent in its own right. 4.5/5.

**

Performance of the week: Beatrice Straight in Network (1976)

This is something that I’m going to try out. Every week, I’m going to try scouring for some performances (not necessarily Oscar nominated/winners) that were considered iconic and fantastic, but somewhat forgotten. I don’t know how disciplined I will be in maintaining this, but I think it will be fun. 🙂

So today, I will be talking about Beatrice Straight’s Oscar winning performance in the movie Network. Network is a very iconic, and I would even say relevant film in today’s context. It’s damn crazy sometimes, and the dialogue can really go over the top, like the very famous and iconic “I’m mad as hell…!” scene (which some consider off-putting), but I actually think that’s the point of it. It’s meant to be a satire that provides a highly exaggerated and critical portrayal of the power and influence of television. Some of the performances are really brilliant, such as the 2 leading ones by Faye Dunaway and Peter Finch (both Oscar Winning).

At 5 minutes 40 seconds, Straight’s performance is easily the shortest winner of the supporting actress category. I’m not going to go into whether she truly deserved the Oscar or not over  Piper Laurie and Jodie Foster, but let me just say that this performance is a true acting master class. She only has one scene of dialogue, but the range of emotions she conveys here is just mind-blowing. The initial disbelief, to the angry outburst (“Then GET OUT!” “I’m your WIFE damn it!”), to the overwhelming pain and sadness (“I hurt, don’t you understand that? I hurt badly!”), and finally when she calms down (“I won’t give you up easily Max”). Just…oh my goodness. All so naturally too, I might add. It was like watching a real human being instead of a scripted character, and the pain unfolding in front of you is so palpable that I’m just blown away. I’ve re-watched this clip many times (it’s basically the bulk of her performance) but it never grows old for me.

Easily one of my favourite winner in this category.

 

A random thought

Although everyone has been saying that Leonardo DiCaprio is long overdue for an Oscar, to me, no one is truly overdue as long as the great actress Glenn Close remains Oscarless.

20140314-104853.jpg

No disrespect to Amy Adams, Julianne Moore and Leonardo DiCaprio, all good actors whom I truly respect and admire.

I’m quite busy nowadays so I don’t have time to do reviews. Latest film I watched was The Elephant Man…I liked it, but I don’t love it. Ok got to go, bye!

Brief Encounter (1946)

20140311-000935.jpg

Brief Encounter tells the story of Laura (Celia Johnson), a housewife who has a brief affair with a married doctor, played by Trevor Howard.

For a film that is made in the 40s, Brief Encounter feels very fresh and modern. David Lean is known for his epics like Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago, but his direction in this simple love story is really outstanding as well. There’s something poetic about the whole mood of the film, and the way the meetings are always set in the train station cafe really brings out the transient nature of the whole relationship. The sound of the train’s whistle serves as a constant reminder of how this relationship is bound not to last, hence making the ending of the film even more heartbreaking. The film is often described as beautiful, and I really think that’s the most apt word for it. It’s really poetic and the flow is very smooth, surrealistic and romantic without being melodramatic or smaltzy. It’s a pretty minimalist film but it manages to construct a dreamy atmosphere thanks to the acting and direction. I especially loved the train shots, because they really represent Laura’s escape from her dull life into this affair, a different world altogether, and the scene in the carriage where she was imagining all the possible happiness she could have with the doctor was pure brilliance. I liked how the transition back to reality in that scene was represented by how “the palm trees change into those pollarded willows by the canal”, because it effectively reminded us (and Laura) that her happiness is short-lived, and that she still has to return to reality, which is her family. That feeling was something I really could resonate with, not that I have affairs or anything of course, but the bitter feeling whenever I know that a joyous occasion is coming to an end. It’s especially obvious how the scenes where Laura is at home feels so ordinary, while the atmosphere instantly changes when she’s with the doctor. And that score! The melancholic piano tune that is interspersed throughout the film really adds to the feeling of doom, reminding you of how this relationship is not going to last.

Celia Johnson gives a truly fantastic, oscar robbed (with all respect to Olivia de Havilland, another favorite of mine) performance as Laura, the housewife. It’s a simple character, but the emotions that the character goes through are complex, such as the ever going conflict in her mind, to the bitter realization in the end that the affair can never last. She successfully contrasts the mere contentment she has living with her husband and family with the exhilaration of being with the doctor. I also liked how she managed to show the flaws of the character, such as when she admitted that the reason why she did not commit suicide had nothing to do with her family. And one must mention how natural and subtle her delivery is, and how her expressive face manages to convey all these emotions, from the emptiness of living with her husband (I love the way she tested to see if he cares about what she’s doing, she really brought out the character’s loneliness), to happiness, and the pure hopefulness, and then to pure despair in the end. Her smile that was reflected in the train window in the imagination scenes really stuck out for me. It’s easily one of the best 40s performances I’ve seen, and I may even like it more that Joan Fontaine in Rebecca (used to be my favorite 40s performance). It’s just heartbreakingly realistic and beautiful, and I find it hard to pick a favorite scene.

Only issue I had was the narration…it was good because of Johnson’s delivery and the emotions she injected in her delivery, but otherwise I thought it was quite unnecessary because of how effectively she already conveyed the emotions through her facial expressions, so there wasn’t really a need for her to list out what she was feeling in her head for us.

It’s a very simple film, and it’s a genre that I’m not crazy about, but I’d make an exception for this one. In fact, I think it’s simplicity makes it even more effective than those sprawling epics about doom affairs, like Out of Africa and The English Patient. Loved it. 4.5/5.

How nice to return to classical films with a great one 😀

Saving Mr Banks (2013)

20140309-233758.jpg

Saving Mr Banks tells the story of how Walt Disney managed to convince P.L. Travers to let him adapt her iconic Mary Poppins into a movie. The movie specifically focuses on Travers’ sad childhood and how it impacted her outlook on life.

I didn’t think the movie was as bad as some of the reviews I’ve read actually. It was a decent, enjoyable film that may be no masterpiece, but definitely something that I would be willing to watch to keep myself occupied on a Saturday afternoon. I don’t really have a high opinion of John Lee Hancock as a director, especially after The Blind Side, but I thought this movie was a considerable improvement from that film. Some of the dialogue can get pretty corny, especially by Tom Hanks, but I managed to accept it. It had some sentimentality that feels pretty in your face, but other than that, it managed to keep me intrigued. I mean, Disney movies have alway been all fluff and magic to me, so it’s always fascinating to find out more about what actually goes on behind the scenes. I’m not a fan of Mary Poppins (cynical me found it boring, sorry), but I was very surprised to learn about the inspiration behind her.

The only minor issue I have is pretty much the same as what most people have with the film: the flashbacks are a bit disruptive to the rhythm. To be honest, it feels like 2 different story lines running concurrently, which may have been Hancock’s intention, but whenever they go back to the flashbacks I feel that something is a bit off because the smooth flow of the present day storyline gets cut off a bit abruptly. I would rather that the storyline on Travers’ children was focused in the front part of the film, and that the key flashbacks from her past that are needed to explain her mentality/behavior in the later parts of the film be more succinct so that it doesn’t feel so disruptive to the main storyline. They could have remained as references, I feel, rather than a separate storyline altogether. And to be honest, something about the childhood scenes didn’t really click with me…I can’t really figure out exactly what it is. I think it’s partially because they’re really cliche and sentimental in a forced way, but I think it has also got to do with Collin Farrell’s performance, which I couldn’t really warm up to because the writing for his character wasn’t very strong either. I just couldn’t buy his performance as the loving father who is an alcoholic. In fact, I feel that the tragedy was more effectively communicated through Emma Thompson’s performance and emotions rather than the actual scenes themselves.

Emma Thompson gives a really good performance as P.L.Travers. To be honest, she made the movie watchable for me, and I’d even say she rose above the material that’s given. The movie seems to want to portray her as some one-note grumpy bitch throughout, but Thompson always succeeded in showing a sort of sadness in her eyes that explains her behavior. She handled the development of her character more realistically than her script, which is saying something. A lesser talent would have made the character a caricature, like a typical grumpy lady who suddenly breaks out of her past self and becomes cheerful. I feel that Thompson added many layers to her performance, and she successfully showed how she was haunted by her own past, and how much Mary Poppins really meant to her. In that way, she managed to actually make me sympathise with her character despite her being ultra dislike able.

Tom Hanks was good. He’s doing his charming American man thing AGAIN, but I must add that he managed to tone down the cheesiness by quite a lot as compared to his Forrest Gump days.

I don’t really have much to say about the film because it didn’t leave that much of an impression, but I can safely say that I liked it. It’s flawed, but watchable. I used to think that Emma Thompson was robbed of that nomination, but like I said in my Oscars post Amy Adam’s performance really grew on me. I’d still have nominated Thompson instead though.

Ok, ok…I have been thinking about the future direction of this blog. I still don’t have a plan but a part of me wants one. I’m wondering whether I should start watching more foreign films, or whether I should review Oscar best picture winners, like do a profile for all the best picture nominees for each year and a ranking. On the other hand, another part of me wants to just go by my gut and randomly select a film to watch and review…so I’m conflicted. I’ll think about it but honestly profiling sounds very troublesome haha and I’m lazy…but it’s nice to have some structure too.

Anyway! I’ve had enough of modern films for now. I’m going to head back to watching classical films and some of the other ones. Just a heads up on what are some of the performances and movies I want to review, in no particular order:

1) Brief Encounter (1946)
2) The Sin of Madelon Claudet (1931, very interested in watching more Helen Hayes movies)
3) Doctor Zhivago (1965) – About time
4) The Elephant Man (1980)
5) The Informer (1935)
6) Some Katharine Hepburn movies, especially the ones from the 30s to 40s LOL
7) More Anne Bancroft movies too…maybe like The Pumpkin Eater or ‘night, Mother
8) update: Zorba the Greek (1964)
9) Five Easy Pieces (1970)
10) Nashville (1975)

Yeah, you can see I’m exposing myself to more of David *Lean’s works.

And the unconfirmed list of films that are on my rewatch list, but highly tentative:
1) Gone With The Wind (1939)
2) Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)

Ok the rewatch is unlikely to happen, it’s just something I decided on a sudden impulse. :p

Shampoo (1975)

Shampoo (1975) tells the story (?) of George Roundy, a hairdresser who sleeps around with his customers, and the supposed “troubles” and “complications” that arise from his promiscuity.

Wow. I’m not going to lie, but this movie is SO INCREDIBLY BORING. To be fair, my expectations were pretty low because the reviews I read were really negative, but you know that I try as much as possible to avoid letting them influence my opinions. Anyway, when I read the synopsis (which pretty much summed up the entire film in one sentence), I wasn’t too excited about it either, but I thought that it was going to be a very trashy, over-the-top film that may not be Oscar worthy (By the way it got 4 Oscar nominations,with 1 win), but entertaining as hell. I mean, movies about shallow people leading shallow lives has never been appealing to me; I feel that the only way to really make them stand out is to go all out to make them over the top, silly and satirical. Well, at least that’s mostly what it was like for The Wolf of Wall Street, which I really enjoyed.

The thing is…there’s nothing happening in this movie. Don’t read on if you intend to watch the film *SPOILER* Ok, Warren Beatty is sleeping around with Goldie Hawn, Julie Christie, Lee Grant (in her Oscar winning role) and disturbingly, Lee Grant’s creepy daughter (I think. It’s strongly implied). Oh then Lee Grant’s husband Jack Warden (in his Oscar nominated role) is cheating on Lee Grant on Julie Christie, who is still trying to seduce Warren Beatty. Or maybe not. Honestly, I don’t care. They then attend this party and of course all the sleeping around naturally revealed itself, with Lee Grant leaving Jack Warden, and Jack Warden proposing to marry Julie Christie even though he saw her having sex with Warren Beatty. Oh, and he still agrees to invest in Warren Beatty’s shop, because he “doesn’t know what’s right or wrong anymore” or something like that…wow…*SPOILER*

I really don’t know what the movie is trying to tell me. It’s very muddled, slow and repetitive. Like you would, you know, think that all those sleeping around would be *ahem* a real sight, but nope. And the dialogue can be problematic in this aspect as well, I know they’re trying to establish George as a wishy washy guy who doesn’t answer questions straight, but after a while I’d rather he just answer the questions that are thrown at him straight away (“Are you gay?” “Does it matter?” blablabla) because it’s really tiring to follow. And…seriously, what’s the point of the whole freaking movie? I mean, I can see that it seems to be criticising George’s behaviour, especially in the ending, but the impact of its message is very very weak due to the lack of character development. I feel like George is still the same person he was at the start of the film. The only effective message it brought across is that these people are empty people with no purpose in their lives, and they’re just bored and sleeping around, but it didn’t need to be so draggy (movie is not even 2 hours).  In fact, I don’t even know whether the movie trying to be a comedy (Maybe I have no sense of humour, but I didn’t find any of the scenes particularly funny),or a drama (no emotional tension). I guess the best satires blend both together, but this movie seems to straddle between both, and the final result is half-baked.

The acting is kinda flat in general. It’s a star-studded cast, and I think the actors know this, because they all seem to be coasting on their star power in general. If the cast was some unknown cast instead (with the exact same performances), I’d have just passed it off as a cheap TV movie. Warren Beatty is not my favourite actor, but I think he’s a really great movie star. Ok, I think he’s a decent actor, not fantastic, but quite good. I feel like he was the George Clooney of his time, both of them are decent actors, considered good looking and charismatic, and they like to produce and direct their own films. I’d probably give Beatty the edge in terms of acting, but not much. I really liked his performances in Bonnie and Clyde and Heaven can wait, but I’d also agree with some of the criticisms that he tends to coast on charisma in some of his performances. Like the emotional aspects of his performances are usually very “safe” and good, but not like OMG amazing. Over here, I tell you, he is totally coasting on his appeal. His whole performance and delivery was a bit flat, and frankly, he sounded very bored. Other than the physical appeal, I don’t even think he is trying to turn on the charm he uses in a lot of his other performances, like he’s just “I’m physically sexy, so screw the rest (no pun intended)”. Ok I’m not a girl so I don’t know what they want (but honestly, I doubt girls’ nowadays would be drawn to a guy like that), but without the charm (very important in this case) I honestly find George quite a loser…the way he always seems so lost because he cannot juggle his women, the way he doesn’t answer your questions directly, the way he always fumbles around in his job…

The female performances were slightly better, but I wasn’t crazy about them either. Julie Christie is an actress whom I usually like. I’m not a fan, but I thought she was great in Darling and McCabe & Mrs Miller. I haven’t watched her in Away From Her, but I think that she must have been excellent since there are people saying that she should have won the Oscar over Marion Cotillard’s towering achievement in La vie en Rose. Over here, I thought she gave the weakest performance among the three actresses, although I usually like her more than the rest. She really succumbed to the poor writing and her performance was quite one note. She was basically a bitch throughout. I think she tried to add a few vulnerable moments here and there, but eh, it overall just didn’t quite work for me. It also didn’t help that her character was so freaking illogical, although she could have tried to play it in a “mysterious” and “vulnerable” way instead to at least justify her actions.

I think Lee Grant, and very surprisingly for me, Goldie Hawn gave the best performances. I’m not saying that I’m blown away by either of them, but at least they managed to add some layers to their characters that made them stand out. Goldie Hawn is playing a more serious version of her character in Cactus Flower (she won the Oscar for that performance), and although I frankly don’t get her character, who can be incredibly annoying, she really managed to make me sympathise with her plight at times. The same goes for Lee Grant, who even won her only Oscar here. I actually prefer Goldie Hawn’s work, and I think that she’s quite good as well, but I don’t find her performance particularly outstanding to warrant that win. She has some strong moments, like when she’s accusing Beatty of neglecting her, and her final realisation that she was going to lose both Warden and Beatty to that slutty Julie Christie (loved that mutual death glare LOL). But I think the quality of the writing is just too poor for me to care about her character (could have focused a bit more on her emptiness/loneliness) Ok, I admit that I watched this film out of curiosity for her performance, because I have never watched a movie of hers before. Some people are saying that her win is totally undeserved, while some say that she grows on repeated viewing…but I doubt I’d ever watch this movie again unless I really want to examine her performance again.

Oh, and Jack Warden is good too, but I feel like there’s really nothing much for his character also.

Overall, Shampoo is a rather weak film that I’m really not crazy about. I wouldn’t even say that it is a missed opportunity because the entire premise is just utterly ridiculous. Maybe it was considered relevant and “important” back in 1975, but now it’s just dull. Some mildly entertaining and funny moments here and there, but otherwise underwhelming. 2.5/5.