Saturday, December 5, 2015

1988: Jodie Foster for The Accused

In her first Oscar-winning performance, former child star Jodie Foster plays a woman who is gang-raped at a bar. She is outraged when her lawyer, without consulting her, makes a deal that puts her attackers in jail without them having to admit rape, so the lawyer decides to prosecute the crowd that was cheering them on.

This is pretty much the polar opposite of the previous year's winning movie, Moonstruck. That was a romantic comedy, and the Best Actress winner didn't really get to do very much that stood out. This is a deeply disturbing drama, and the Best Actress winner has to do so much. The audience is shown so many different sides of her character: we see her before, during, immediately after, and quite a while after the rape. She acts very differently in all these scenarios, but she always seems like the same person. She powerfully conveys a wide range of raw emotions, and every reaction she gives is consistent with the last. I think it would be extremely difficult to pull off a performance that's so emotional yet so controlled, but Foster manages pretty much flawlessly. Her character is so different from me that I can't really relate to her at all, yet I still manage to feel empathy for her because Foster makes her so real. And she makes it look so effortless, like this is just the way she is, when obviously that's not actually true. She's just an insanely talented actress.

I feel like I've talked about accents a lot on this blog, and I have to do it again because that's the one criticism I have of this performance. The location is never specifically mentioned, but based on the license plates and the state flag in the courtroom, it's supposed to be the state of Washington. So why does everyone, especially Foster, sound like they're from the east coast? I found this very distracting throughout the movie, which I'm sure has nothing to do with the fact that I'm from the state of Washington and have never heard anyone talk like that here. I think the movie's based on a true story that happened in Massachusetts, so maybe their accents were in tribute to that? But then why not just set it in Massachusetts? Anyway, it doesn't really matter, and it's still a fabulous performance, but I think it's interesting that she beat Meryl Streep and her impressive Australian accent in A Cry in the Dark (although maybe I wouldn't think that if I was from Australia) by playing a Washingtonian from New England.

Jodie Foster has had an intense career, earning her first Oscar nomination for playing a 12-year-old prostitute in 1976's Taxi Driver. This was her second nomination, and her first for a leading role. She would go on to win for her next nominated performance in the Best Picture Winner 3 years later, so I'll be talking more about her soon. But first, Jessica Tandy will set a new record for oldest Best Actress Winner, in the eighth Best Picture Winner with a Best Actress winning performance.

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