Friday, 20 February 2009


In Darren Aronofsky's excellent feature film from 2000, "Requiem For A Dream", Ellen Burstyn offered up a performance so exquisitely nuanced, so beautifully played out and so ultimately tragic that, by its conclusion, any viewer would have to be either dead or comatose not to be shaken to the very core of their being by it.

She was rightfully nominated for an Academy Award as Best Actress for her efforts.
Julia Roberts won for "Erin Brockovich".

Moving on ...

Last night (February 19, 2009), on the often hackneyed and incredible (in the true sense of that word)
"Law & Order: SVU", a franchise of the original "Law & Order" series that should have had its plug pulled when Jerry Orbach died, Burstyn turned up as guest star playing the mother of Christopher Meloni's character Elliot Stabler.

Armed with a mostly pedestrian script, and only a few key scenes, Burstyn threw herself into the role with such extraordinary flair, energy, precision and emotional commitment that her co-stars, solid performers all, were left floundering in her wake gasping for just a little spare oxygen, any oxygen at all that could allow them to wrest even the tiniest sliver of our attentions back to their own characters and their respective dilemmas. They couldn't and didn't.

The poor buggers.

In stagework, performers often refer to "hotspots", a hotspot being that space on the stage where an actor has so effectively chewed up the scenery and stolen the show from under everyone else that the space feels so charged with residual energy from the performance that other actors go out of their way to avoid it lest it diminish their own efforts in that space by comparison.

Whether the same applies to film and television performances I do not know, but, so commanding, so riveting, so high-energy was Burstyn’s performance that, at one point, I fully expected my sad old ex-rental 66cm cathode ray tube teat to blow itself into the farthest reaches of the stratosphere to play footsies with

There should be no criticism made of any actor, nor should it be considered a diminution of their stature and talents when they decide to pop up occasionally on an episode of some colour-by-numbers television show. For Burstyn, it may have amounted to a week’s worth of work with a day in post for a not inconsiderable sum of money. And then of course, there are always residuals and royalties from DVD sales to consider, something denied Australian actors in Australian productions.

But, for God’s sake, will someone, somewhere, please please please give this marvelous actress a role worthy of her exceptional talents?

Can we give
Meryl Streep and Judi Dench a rest for a while and start casting our nets a little farther afield, beyond these usual suspects? We’ve just seen Debra Winger slam her way back into the public eye with gusto after an extended absence from the screen in “Rachel Getting Married”

Please sir, can I have some more?

Can we have more of
Julie Christie and can we have more of Sissy Spacek and can we have more, lots, lots more of Ellen Burstyn? And can we give them all something very, very good to do?

Can we put them all in a movie together? With
Robert Duvall perhaps?

Now, that would be a beautiful thing to behold.

"It's unfortunate but our society is such that, for women in Hollywood, you get to a certain age and just fall off a cliff. But in my case, I refuse to die. I will hang on, by a little finger if necessary." Ellen Burstyn

"I thought it was fabulous. My next ambition is to get nominated for seven seconds, and, ultimately, I want to be nominated for a picture in which I don't even appear." Ellen Burstyn, 2004, regarding her Emmy nomination for her performance in “Mrs. Harris”, in which she appeared for 14 seconds.
Quotes sourced from IMDB

1 comment:

Bron said...

Requiem for a Dream was a brilliant movie and Ellen's (not that one, the other one) performance was just incredible. I still think about that movie from time to time; rarely does a movie have such an impact that I'm still thinking about it years later.

Anyway, yes to more other actors instead of the usual suspects.