March 22, 2008

Wanted: Neurotic, Depressed Female In Her Late 30s

Is it me, or does Laura Linney always play a similar, if not the same, female character in her movies? I have just returned from seeing The Savages, for which Linney was nominated an Academy Award. Expectations were for a humorous plot about a 40-something temp/aspiring playwright placing her ailing father in a nursing home and some excellent acting by Linney and one of my favorites, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, who plays her brother.

However, I found the film to be slow-moving and depressing, full of reflections on the crappiness of life and how death is "full of shit and piss and stink," to quote Hoffman's character's line. The best part of the film is the end where Linney's character, Wendy, produces her semi-autobiographical play and saves a partially-disabled yellow lab who was going to be put to death by her married ex-lover. Forgive me, but I feel better about films where the scenes have a more positive tone. Throughout the film, I found myself admiring Linney's dark, perfectly formed curls, thinking about how I would curl my own hair tomorrow. I may be a tad superficial, but the point is that I wasn't seeing anything new with Linney besides her hairstyle. Her character of Wendy is a 42 year-old woman, who has spent her whole life trying to get her work published, being rejected by the Guggenheim Institute eight times. Her dull, listless, seemingly indifferent character is not unlike her character, Sarah, from Love Actually or You Can Count on Me. There are other movies I have seen her in (whose titles I cannot recall) where she plays these uptight, self-immolating women with burdens of mentally insane brothers, problematic children, or self-proclaimed Christian missionaries. Her characters are intense, fiercely staunch in their nature, and Linney plays them like Yo-Yo Ma plays the cello or Edith Piaf warbles La Vie En Rose.

Linney is in no doubt an talented artist, but after seeing The Savages this evening, I wish that she might assume a role similar to Meg Ryan's Kathleen Kelly of You've Got Mail, more champagne in lieu of bourbon. But then, Ryan also plays many similar roles. Perhaps, there is a singular quality in some actors that studios identify and connect with certain film projects to produce that perfect formula of neurotic feminism.

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