Tuesday, December 22, 2015

1992: Emma Thompson for Howards End

Emma Thompson plays a middle class woman in early 20th century England who lives with her brother and sister. The film chronicles the development of relationships between her family and two others: one from the upper class and one from the lower class.

This was the first time I'd watched this movie, and I'm not sure that I can sufficiently convey my feelings about it in a blog post, but I'll try. First of all, I don't think it's possible to overstate Emma Thompson's fabulousness, just in general, but especially in this performance. Secondly, this movie was way more fascinating than I expected it to be. I didn't really know much about it, and I was certainly not anticipating so many plot twists. At the very beginning, I couldn't understand why Thompson won the Oscar, since it seemed to be focusing more on Helena Bonham Carter (who also gave a fabulous performance, by the way), but it didn't take too long for Thompson's character to establish herself as the protagonist. From that point forward, I was enthralled with her performance, when I wasn't too distracted by the thoroughly engaging and unpredictable story. The funny thing is, if I hadn't been watching specifically for Emma Thompson's performance, I don't think I would have appreciated what a great job she does because it's so subtle.

Unlike many of the other great Oscar winning performances I've blogged about, her character is given no detailed tragic backstory, no big emotional scenes, no calculated schemes. She's just a kind, intelligent middle class woman trying to survive in a world built for and run by wealthy men. When bad things happen to her, or to people she cares about, she does what she can to make it better, but then moves on when she feels there's nothing more she can do. This provides a sharp contrast to her sister, who holds on to everything and keeps fighting even when it becomes hopeless. However, through very subtle facial expressions and mannerisms, we can tell that Thompson's character feels things much more deeply than she's letting on. And that's my favorite thing about this performance: it initially appears simple, but is in fact extremely complex. My second favorite thing is the way Emma Thompson and Helena Bonham Carter interact; they're such believable sisters, and I wish they had more scenes together. My least favorite thing is Thompson's "romance" with Anthony Hopkins, who is much less creepy in this than in the last movie, but no less despicable. But her scenes with Hopkins, though painful, are intentionally so, and provide ample opportunities for subtleties, so even those contribute to my appreciation of her performance.

This was Thompson's first Oscar nomination. The following year, she was nominated twice: for Best Actress in Remains of the Day and Best Supporting Actress for In the Name of the Father. Unusually, she didn't win either, possibly because she had just won this year. Two years after that, she was again nominated for two Oscars in the same year: Best Actress and Best Adapted Screenplay, both for Sense and Sensibility. That time she did win the screenplay Oscar, but Howards End remains her only Best Actress winning performance. I think she should have at least been nominated for Saving Mr. Banks, but what do I know?

Coming up next: Holly Hunter, who was also nominated for two acting Oscars that year...was there a sudden actress shortage?

No comments:

Post a Comment