Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Worst performance by a person in the role of an actress goes to...

And the winner is... Thandie Newton. And the losers are... well, let's see. For starters, Oliver Stone & Stanley Weiser, the director and writer of W., the film containing the offending performance by Ms. Newton.
But the list goes on. Everyone who actually had to play out a scene with Ms. Newton, though after sitting through the film, it's hard to recall anything other than how dreadful her mere presence was in even the least of her scenes. In particular, it was Josh Brolin who had to deal with her wooden, mannequin-like delivery and utterly high-school level mimicking. Should Brolin land an Oscar nod, be sympathetic, the man's been through acting hell. Most importantly the losers are the audience, though judging strictly by the numbers, there aren't all that many of us. 

The audience got left in the cheap seats with a film that in most ways featured top talent. Brolin, already mentioned, nailed his role, though whether the role nailed its target is debatable. The other notable thespians moving through this narrative were James Cromwell in the role of "Poppy", former President George H.W. Bush and Richard Dreyfuss (who we have to admit we really enjoy showing up on the big screen now and then) in the role of the infamous Dick Cheney, hitting his marks with a hell of a lot more accuracy than the real Cheney aims a shotgun.

After that, the list devolves into mediocre at best performances from talent that usually gets paid enough to garner higher expectations. Elizabeth Banks was an acceptable Laura Bush mostly for her uncanny physical resemblance. Ellen Burstyn as Barbara Bush is a throw-away that could have been more effectively acted with almost no additional effort. And practically without exception, the remaining (and numerous) cast members seemed out-of-place and unrehearsed. Even the usually effective Scott Glenn (here walking through the role of Donald Rumsfeld), appeared to have been thrown his first copy of the script as he was leaving the make-up trailer. All of this oddly surprising for a director who usually can be noted for delivering the best from his talent in even the least of his body of work.

But the standout in an absolutely vacant portrayal of Condoleezza Rice was Ms. Newton. My reaction to her every moment on screen, from walking in some kind of caricatured hunch, speaking with a muddled and non-sensical accent or simply appearing to be no more than a prop, a hatrack in the corner of a shot, was to be astounded at her even being included in the film frame. So how's this for clarity, Thandie Newton as Condoleezza Rice in Oliver Stone's W. delivers the singularly worst performance I have ever witnessed from an actor or actress who can be (even in jest) called a professional in the realm of motion pictures. I will hope that the performance stands as award winningly awful for all time, I can't imagine sitting through anything worse. 

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