Saturday, January 06, 2007

Golden Girl Catherine O'Hara Deserves Some Serious Oscar Consideration

In choosing one performance for submission to the Lulu of a blogathon Stinky's concocted over here, I tip my hat to Catherine O'Hara for her funny, touching, and daring portrayal of Marilyn Hack, a dedicated, reliable actor working in independent films who finds her profile abruptly rising after her small-scale career witnesses a dramatic turn of events. Serving as the centerpiece figure in For Your Consideration, O'Hara lends a measure of realism to the film's frequently frenetic proceedings, while also managing the difficult task of keeping Marilyn's very imposing character arch real with great style and skill. Similar to O'Hara's intelligent, faultless work in A Mighty Wind, her indelible creation certainly warrants far more accolades than O'Hara has been granted thus far.

RED ALERT!!! **Spoilers Ahead!!** Go watch the film first!!

Has any other performer this (or any) year moved so effortlessly from comedy to pathos with the insightful deftness O'Hara displays? Although O'Hara is clearly in on the film's joke, she chooses her lighter moments carefully, while never playing for easy laughs and/or slipping into caricature (for example, the awestruck demeanor she deploys while computer novice Marilyn describes the joys of printing off the internet is hilarious and believable). Even more impressive is the powerful acting chops O'Hara displays during the final scenes of the film, wherein Marilyn has become a pitiful, disturbing shell of her former respectable self. Compare the tranquil, pleasant Marilyn shown during the film's outset with the blubbery, self-absorbed lush of the latter scenes and ask yourself what other performer could have pulled it off with the dexterity and complexity O’Hara brings to the role. Overall, the movie may not be up to some of director Christopher Guest and his merry company's earlier efforts (the laughs often seemed strained as performers try to keep the fun going, and a lot of scenes don't come off as amusing as they’re intended to be); however, days after viewing Consideration it’s impossible to shake off O'Hara's multi-faceted, bittersweet work.

Alas, it seems unlikely O'Hara's unsurpassable performance will be acknowledged come Oscar time. It's no secret harboring any form or sense of humor in your work isn't the easiest way for actors to find themselves at the podium come the Big Night. Combine this with the fact O'Hara is offering a terrific take on a certain type of fame-craving, nomination-whoring celebrity (as in the "look at me!! I'm acting here!!" ilk) in a film which uses the ridiculous nature of awards season as its primary plot line, and even the chance of a nomination for the worthy O'Hara starts to look bleak. Although the National Board of Review came through, granting their Supporting Actress Award to O’Hara, she missed out when most of the others critics prizes were announced, and her omission from the Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild's shortlists (both of them should have known better as these groups, especially the Globes, do manage to single out great work in comedy films) doesn’t bode well for O’Hara when the Academy Award nominations are announced. Hopefully, audiences interested in witnessing some of the richest, most penetrating and moving acting seen in a long while won't pass on Catherine O'Hara's impressive, accomplished, and sure-to-be enduring (Oscars be damned) portrait of Marilyn Hack, the sweet, fragile, and ultimately tragic heart and soul of For Your Consideration.


At 11:31 AM, Blogger J.J. said...

I love her, and I had high hopes for this performance in this movie (which I think turned out awful), but I just didn't buy that crazy switch from calm character actress to crazy collagen'd floozy. Even if it was meant as hyperbole, it comes across as false for me.

At 11:32 PM, Blogger Vertigo's Psycho said...

Obviously, we hold divergent views regarding O'Hara's work in this (I completely buy her transformation- Marilyn's unnerving switch towards the end of the film certainly is abrupt and disquieting, but in a youth-obsessed nation, it's easy to believe O'Hara's aging actress- no matter how solid a professional she's been before- could, upon finally gaining a chance to break into the big time, get caught up in the moment and go to extremes in a desperate attempt to recapture her youth and sex appeal (an idea hardly unheard of in the annals of Hollywood), then quickly flame out upon realizing that oops, sorry Marilyn, the parade really has passed you by after all).

I do agree the film isn't in the same ballpark as the other Guest films, as the movie is fairly bereft of laughs in many scenes that just don't gel. As a showcase for O'Hara, though, it works just fine, and is defintely worth a viewing.

At 5:26 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

I thought O'Hara was amazing in FYC. It was a very moving performance.


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