This is a well made movie. Such things are rare, and when they come around, we celebrate them. Many extend this celebration to Bening, who is similarly competent.
But something is ajar. The project is based on a familiar device: we see a film (really a play) which has a character who is an actress. She conflates her life and the theatre within. The reason this is done so often — in different variations — is because when the life and the play within become intertwined, so also do we with our world and the world of the play we see.
In the business, this is called “folding”. It is more popular than usual right now.
The adapter and director clearly wanted to emphasize the collapsing of life and play. Its mentioned many times of course and the “ordinary” folding of her saying things in life she says on stage. But Maugham’s original, rather weak vision is expanded. Even the theater has theater outside. Key additions are three “watchers”; Julia’s son, her dresser (reflecting on “The Dresser”), and a disembodied mentor who enthusiastically encourages the fold.
The dresser earned her folding stripes as one of three characters named Cissie Colpitts in the 100-folded masterpiece “Drowning by Numbers”. But the master casting is Michael Gambon as the acting/life coach. He’ll always be rooted in TeeVee’s best project ever, “The Singing Detective”, in which he plays a role very similar to here.
So the setup is pretty thorough. The only problem is that no one told Annette. Or more likely, they told her, but she just couldn’t do folded acting: creating a character that is both within and without the inner fantasy. An example is Depp in “Neverland”. So while this little project still amuses, and Annette’s skill shows, imagine what this would have been with one of our better redhead actresses.
Posted in 2005
Ted’s Evaluation — 3 of 3: Worth watching.