This week was amazing! I couldn't have hoped for a better panel for this because the complete all over the place nature of these reviews and perceptions of performances was just so delicious! Yup, it's another Friday, which means Twice a Best Actress is delving into yet another pair of Oscar wins, this time for Jane Fonda! I don't even want to say anything more...just take a gander!
First, our panel:
Andrew from The Films the Thing
Drew from A Fistful of Films
Fritz from Fritz and the Oscars
Josh from The Cinematic Spectacle
Kevin from Speaks in Movie Lines
Sati from Cinematic Corner
Jane Fonda has had so many lives (Hollywood royalty as Henry Fonda's daughter, controversial political figure, and 80's VHS exercise queen, just to name a few) that sometimes her work as an actress can get overshadowed. But with 7 Oscar nominations over her career so far and a body of work that covers everything from Neil Simon to Lee Daniels to kinky 60's space sexcapade (and everything in between) she has certainly proven that she is more than just a headline generator. And her first Best Actress win for 1971's Klute (often cited as the actress' best performance) is one of the rare instances where a performer won for the right role at the right time. Fonda plays Bree Daniels, a struggling model/actress, that finds her greatest success is as a call girl, who gets caught up in a missing persons case (a past John) investigated by a private detective named Klute (the criminally never-Oscar-nominated Donald Sutherland). Fonda spent time with actual prostitutes to prepare but found them to be too hard, too beaten down by life, and almost dropped out of the film when she felt she didn't have a grasp on the character. She found her way in by playing up the fact that Bree is an actress. Each new encounter is an opportunity to be a new person, allowing her to have a spark of life within her still. Bree may not be the best actress, but when she's on a job she's never better. And Fonda, the epitome of the 70's liberated woman, has never been more naturalistic, open, and spontaneous on screen. Fonda improvised all her dialogue during the scenes at her analyst, allowing her to delve even deeper into Bree's psche and Fonda said she even surprised herself with how far she went into character when she spontaneously burst into tears while listening to a recording late in the film. But it's that willingness, without stifling her natural impulses, that makes the performance feel so alive. I do feel that the film suffers by trying to force an uninteresting thriller onto us (who really cares what happened to that missing guy anyway), without allowing us to just fully enjoy Fonda's fascinating character study. But Fonda is electric and for once the Academy got it right.
My Grade: B+
I adopted the phrase, “I’m not fond of Fonda”, years ago. In all honesty it was in reference to the whole family. I just don’t get them. They have all had their moments, but their style of acting is often lost on me, too mannered and lacking of connective emotion, and so while I have been impressed to a certain degree by their performances, that impressive is never consistent.
The praise surrounding Fonda’s Oscar win for Klute was just all over the place. Some were heralding as the greatest Best Actress Oscar win, period. How could this be? Jane Fonda? Really?
I don’t think so.
But then I saw Klute, and I must admit, I was blown away by a few things. First and foremost, I was shocked that this was the type of film Oscar would choose to reward. It’s a thriller about prostitutes. They don’t often go for that kind of thing. Klute is a very good thriller about prostitutes though, and so that makes it all the more impressive that Oscar bit, because they bit for a good movie. This doesn’t feel like your typical Best Actress Oscar win, and yet it was wholly deserving, which is the other thing that surprised me. Fonda delivers possibly her finest performance (like I said, I’m not usually a fan), filtering so much internal AND external emotion.
The clinical duties of a prostitute lend themselves to the Fonda breed of acting, let’s be honest. That low voice, cold stare, dead pan delivery, lack of emotional connection. You have to have the detached presence and the Fonda’s always seem detached and so this was a perfect pairing. But, what really took me by surprise was the way that Fonda was able to counterbalance that with a real display of fear, pain and heartbreak. You believed her in every moment. She mastered that ‘switch on a dime’ type reflex that allowed her to color this performance in ways I’d never seen her color them before. It’s a full performance, quiet and loud all at the same time, which makes for a really beautiful turn.
My Grade: A
Ah, Jane Fonda…what can I say? The fact that she was able to prove herself as a dramatic actress and win two Oscars and many more awards when she could so easily have been disregarded as a sex-kitten or just Henry Fonda’s daughter or an unpopular political activist seems to suggest that she was just too talented to not be taken seriously. And apparently this is an opinion that is shared by many movie fans…but unfortunately I cannot join the choir of love. I have a lot of respect for Jane Fonda’s work but I always fail to see either any emotional honesty or any true character development in her work. Jane Fonda is an actress who possesses great instincts for what she wants her characters to be and how to express this. Unfortunately, she belongs to the category of actors who aren’t able to bring these instincts across completely successfully. In her worst performances, Jane Fonda seems like a bad drama student who missed too many lessons; in her best performances, she seems like a very talented drama student who has mastered all the techniques and methods of acting but to whom one always wants to say ‘Okay, Jane, please do it again. And this time mean it.’ There is always a certain shallowness in her work, a feeling that she never gets as deep into her characters as would be possible and she herself would like to. Instead, she projects a constant awareness and reflection about her acting styles and choices. Her famous and praised scenes with her psychiatrist, scenes in which Bree opens herself up and step by step reveals her inner fears and the demons that keep her from changing her life and allow herself to be happy, are generally considered to be a wonderful proof of her spontaneity and ability to slip into her characters, but to me, every movement of her arms, every expression on her face, seem to be a result of careful consideration. While she doesn’t feel as controlled in her performances as other actresses, it still seems that inside Jane Fonda’s head there is a constant reflection about what to do next and how to move now while saying the lines. This way, her best performances have a certain fascination from a technical point of view but they always stop one step before reaching a full embodiment of her characters. Most of all, I simply cannot warm up to her delivery of lines – she and Marsha Mason are two actresses of the 70s who always sound so fake no matter what they say and how they say it. When I say fake I don’t mean that I don’t believe them but that I never forget that I am watching an actress delivering lines. But this doesn’t mean that there isn’t still a lot to enjoy about most of her work, especially in Klute. Her ability to fully understand her characters is certainly her strongest asset. Jane Fonda clearly knows Bree and what she feels and thinks. While a lot of scenes with Bree feel forced into the movie and don’t really connect with the rest, Jane Fonda has the ability to turn Bree into one logic creation. It’s only her performance that holds everything together and shows the fear and terror of Bree just as effectively as her insecurity and worries and Jane Fonda must have done something right or otherwise it’s hard to image that a prostitute stalked by a crazy killer would ever be on Oscar’s radar. But I never feel as affected by her fate as I probably should be. I like her performance but it always remains a performance for me – I just cannot see a true character.
My Grade: C
Fonda won her first Best Actress Oscar for playing Bree Daniels, a prostitute who becomes entangled in a missing persons case. Oscar voters love to nominate prostitutes, and Fonda was on the rise when this film was released. Though, she ultimately got nominated because this is one of her best performances. As Brie, she is able to physically and emotionally express the longings and fears of her troubled character. It's such a layered performance, which doesn't often come out of thrillers. Fonda is the reason to see this film, as she is the driving force. In a compelling, dedicated performance, Fonda gives it her all, and she delivers one of the finest turns by an actress that year. She easily deserved a nomination, at the very least.
Did Fonda deserve to win?
I'm for Fonda all the way here, though a win for Glenda Jackson's performance in Sunday Bloody Sunday would've been interesting.
My Grade: A
As hooker-with-a-touch-of-paranoia (and rightly so) Bree Daniels in Alan J. Pakula's "Klute," Jane Fonda never misses a beat. She is an incredible actress. In his review of the film, the late great Roger Ebert wrote, and I'm paraphrasing, that she has such a great nervous energy and gets so deep into the character that she seems distracted by things that happen in the movie. I felt this way about her performance here as well. She is attractive, believable, totally the character, perfectly cast.
The movie itself, despite the gorgeous, stalker-ish cinematography by the "Prince of Darkness" himself, the late Gordon Willis, is not good, though I wanted it to be. The deliberate slow pace didn't work. Just too painfully slow. And it the continuity of the scenes was, to me, disrupted by the phone call tapes over everything...I couldn't tell who she was talking to or when or why. I just didn't follow it. I really wanted to. I had a similar experience with Pakula's "All the President's Men." But I digress…
Fonda's performance is amazing. She pretty much carries the movie, a paranoid story about paranoia and fear and loneliness and uncertainty. Fonda embodies this. The identity crisis is my favorite part of this movie. And she nails it. The scenes with Sutherland as Klute and the therapist are just so solid. She's a true actress in a movie that really didn't seem to have a want for it. And, for that, she deserves some credit. In '71, I would've gone for Julie Christie in Robert Altman's "McCabe and Mrs. Miller."
The Scene That Won It: The bit where she first meets Klute and calls him a "goddamn square" a couple times. I loved that scene.
My Grade: B+
I heard some things about the movie before seeing it, mainly the praise for the movie's atmosphere and Fonda's performance. And the praise is justified - this is a very impressive work and probably the best thing about the movie.
In spite of the title of the film, it is actually focused on Fonda's Bree not on Sutherland's detective Klute. And it's a good thing too - not that the detective wasn't interesting but she was just a wonderful, memorable, very well written character. She wasn't easy to like - a call girl, after all, from what I gathered by choice, someone who also sabotages any meaningful relationships she starts to have because she is scared of what may happen if she doesn't. But Fonda really made her feel like a flawed, complete and interesting character.
We get to know Bree very well in the movie, mostly thanks to her scenes with a psychiatrist to whom she talks about her issues. We spend a lot of time with Bree and thanks to that and Fonda's dedicated performance she really feels like a real person. Fonda makes her alluring, but never vulgar, mysterious, but never sinister, lost, but never hopeless. There are many stand out moments, but for me the one that was truly mesmerizing is when Bree runs into a club, scared, confused, desperate and tries to find some solace. Fonda has no audible lines there but she is just amazing. The look on her face when she gives up is insanely memorable.
My Grade: B+
Hal Ashby's Coming Home starts off with the best of intentions, but sometimes that's not enough. The prime example, Fonda's second Best Actress win as a military wife during the Vietnam war that volunteers at a VA Hospital and finds herself torn between her love for her husband off fighting (a manic Bruce Dern) and the paraplegic vet that she's drawn to (Jon Voight hamming it up in a role that won Best Actor). Fonda, who herself received plenty of backlash and media scrutiny during the war (I think my military father still hasn't forgiven "Hanoi Jane"), was a producer on the film and was inspired by her friend Ron Kovic (his life story later became Oliver Stone's Oscar-winning Born on the Fourth of July) to inform about the wounded back home from the war and shed light on their situation. But it feels a little like Fonda is atoning for something, and so as not to offend, plays a saintly woman of almost no distinguishing characteristics. Playing such a do-gooder, Fonda quickly becomes bland and boring, always doing the right thing and practically sleepwalking through her performance. Even the fact that she's having an affair is practically a non-issue, as she never seems to muster much enthusiasm about other man. She is too sedate throughout, without enough passion for the love story it's trying to be and not politically volatile enough to be the message movie she desperately wants it to be. I would've given the award to Ingrid Bergman in her last theatrical performance (and some of her strongest work) in Autumn Sonata. Having already won three, she hardly needed another win, but then again, she probably shouldn't have won for two of her three wins. It seems a lot of the time the best intentions of the Academy itself don't always work out...
My Grade: C-
Some performances serve no purpose but to propel a certain aspect of a story forward. They have no actual depth of life of their own and are really just props for the central actors and or characters to revolve around.
Then there is the character of Sally Hyde, a character who SHOULD have depth and a life of her own and yet is so dully portrayed that she feels like one of those aforementioned props.
Sally Hyde is the perfect example of why I’m ‘not fond of Fonda’. This is a performance that is so ‘dead in the eyes’ that it feels flat and empty. While Sally is, for all intents and purposes, a central figure in Coming Home, the film never feels like it is about her at all because her performance is so lacking of any real spark. She’s perfectly fine and yet wholly ineffective in the role; delivering a tonally dense portrait of a woman in a marriage we never believe having an affair that feels underwhelming.
It’s strange to me, because I actually really like this movie a lot, and I think that Voight’s performance is astonishing. He carries her weight a lot of the time, because when he is on the screen he brings this electric honesty that engulfs every scene, but when he leaves Fonda dies a little inside, and so do we, watching this performance that pretty much flatlines.
The fact that this beat out Ingrid Bergman for one of the greatest performances EVER is just wrong.
My Grade: D
Jane Fonda received her second Oscar for her performance as Sally Hyde, an army-wife who starts an affair with a paraplegic soldier and begins to doubt the American war in Vietnam. Jane Fonda in a movie about Vietnam seems to give a feeling of controversy right away – but it is actually anything but. It is a powerful story – but only in regards to its male character. Jane Fonda’s Sally, while the central character, is mostly reduced to reacting to her surroundings and the transformation that she is supposed to be going through never feels as complete or remarkable as it could have. Sally is never allowed to become a real, three-dimensional person and mostly fulfills the role of a love-interest, caught between two men but without either the passion, the live, the guilt or the doubt to make her more interesting. Also, her voice again fails her and line-readings such as accusing Luke of being “such a bastard” or gasping “Oh my God” when she learns that husband knows of her affair become flat and uninspired instead of moving the plot forward and creating the tension on the screen they are supposed to. Jane Fonda also fails to create any chemistry with Bruce Dern, therefore failing to add any drama the subsequent affair with Jon Voight. To be fair, Jane Fonda makes the impression that she again clearly thought about her character and her motives but the combination of her shallow acting style and the shallow writing for the character don’t allow her to bring any complexity to the part. What works about this performance is Jane’s chemistry with Jon Voight. Her shy behavior when she meets him in the hospital, her nervousness when she invites him home for dinner, her passion for him, these parts are all demonstrated well. And the most (or better only) exciting scene involving Jane Fonda comes almost at the end when her husband threatens her and Luke with a gun. The way she freezes opposite him with her arms reaching out to him is the only interesting thing Jane Fonda does in the entire movie. Her complete inability to move or say something underlines the tension of the situation and shows how she is torn between her loyalty to her husband (something that wasn’t shown so far in the movie) and the fear she is feeling at the same time. But this moment comes too late and doesn’t change the mostly negative impression that Jane Fonda created earlier. It’s a serviceable performance but even within the limits of the role, Jane Fonda could have added more mystery and life.
My Grade: D
Fonda won her second Best Actress Oscar for playing Sally Hyde, a soldier's wife who falls in love with another man - a paraplegic veteran recently returned from combat. This film was a timely anti-war drama, which swept its stars in for Oscars. Again, Fonda was rewarded for giving a brilliant performance, and not just for appearing in a great film. Though her role has been done before, she makes it her own, offering a subtle, affecting performance. In a film with a very clear message, Fonda is fresh, engaging and heart-breaking, with a strong presence that never feels forced or overbearing. She nails this performance, and it only adds to the great run she had in the 70's. Any recognition she (and her fellow actors) received was well deserved.
Did Fonda deserve to win?
While she is a worthy winner, she wasn't more deserving than Ingrid Bergman in Autumn Sonata. The best performance lost that year.
My Grade: A
Now this one, I loved. I want to thank Drew for putting this together just because I got to see this movie. It's funny: I commented on the Rainer post, I believe, about thinking this was gonna be some sappy "Places in the Heart"-esque stinker. Man, was I wrong.
My opinion began to change when I realized this was the lost 70s gem from the great Hal Ashby that had eluded me. How did I miss this when I went through my Ashby phase. I was pretty much in tears when it ended and am not ashamed to admit it. That has to do with the greatness of Fonda and Voight and Dern and Ashby's assured direction of this material. It is an incredibly moving film.
Again, Fonda, this time as good Marine Corps wife, Sally Hyde, just purely embodies the character. I fell in love during her first meeting with Voight's paraplegic Vietnam vet, Luke Martin. That coy smile when he calls her "bender over" is screen acting. Fonda is purely a star of the screen, a real and true beauty of an actress. Like "Klute"'s Bree, she again is a woman in crisis undergoing great change. Not knowing what to do with her husband (Dern) at war, she begins her questionable line of brilliant decisions. She volunteers at the hospital, buys a sports car, changes her hair, gets a beach front apartment and a cool, new best friend, and it's all so believable. How many women of that time must have lived just this! It baffles me how just right this movie is.
Her girlish nervousness with Luke. The way she quietly deals with her husband's cynicism and denial during the R&R in Hong Kong. That beautiful sex scene. The laughs over beers. The tears at the beach. I could go on and on. I am in love with this movie, with Hal Ashby, with Jon Voight, with Bruce Dern, and, most importantly, with Jane Fonda.
The Scene That Won It: The "talk about Bob" scene on the beach. The shot of her face changing from smiles to tears, to Voight's face, to her sitting on his lap, to the close-up of her thumb rubbing his arm. Damn!
My Grade: A+
I was kinda shocked that this movie is so acclaimed because other than for amazing music selection there really isn't much of anything memorable here, but I suppose back then it was different. The problem is that you never really feel the love between Sally and her husband so the whole conflict is non-existent and because of that the movie is predictable. I mean you just know what's gonna happen later on and in the end within the first 20 minutes of it.
I really do not get that win - I haven't seen any of the other nominees, but it seems like they had quite baity roles in acclaimed movies, so did Fonda simply win because of the subject of the movie? Or is there some sort of correlation between showing a female orgasm in the film and the actress winning for the performance? (btw don't believe the hype about a sex scene, it's really not that spectacular)
The script of the movie, especially regarding her character was very weak. Her character wasn't very interesting and her situation lacked impact, also due to Fonda who truth be told didn't really act like her heart was in this story. There are some actors who disappear in their characters, but Fonda didn't manage to do that even for a second here. Voight was so much better than she was here and I don't even think he deserved his win.
My Grade: D
There is a number assigned to each letter grade that helps us give a score to each performance. The highest number (and A+) would be 20 points. An F would warrant 0 points (a D gives you 5). So these are the scores for each performance as well as a collective score (which will be used at the end to rank each individual actress).
Jane Fonda received a total of 89 points for her performance in Klute.
Jane Fonda received a total of 59 points for her performance in Coming Home.
This is a collective total of 148 points.
As a point of reference, the highest collective score you can attain is 240.
So this closes our discussion of Jane Fonda. Next Friday we're going to be discussing one of the most polarizing double wins ever, Hilary Swank. This should be interesting.
Again, a big round of applause for the awesome bloggers sharing this series with me! You guys did some awesome work, as to be expected.