August 11, 2014

Irene Dunne, Love Affair

as TERRY MCKAY
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Love Affair is said to be Irene Dunne's favorite film. I found out this factoid after having watched it, and I'm rather perplexed as to why she liked it so much. Perhaps it's because the movie itself is sweet like a Hershey's kiss, but I personally found it to be a very ordinary and often times boring romantic drama. Love Affair is not nearly as memorable as The Awful Truth or even Cimarron for that matter (though the latter is memorable for all the wrong reasons). Many consider that it's not even the most memorable adaptation of its own story (re: An Affair to Remember). Performance wise, while there were parts of Dunne's performance to appreciate, I can't say that I was enthralled by her.

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For me, I felt that this was another case of a performance that is serviceable but not necessarily anything special. I've read thoughts on her work here and there on the internet that seem to praise a performance seen as restrained and natural...and while I can agree that bits and pieces of the performance definitely have a more organic air about it, I was rather bored by Dunne for much of the film. There are some moments that I did like--she can radiate such a glowing light such as in the scene in which she tells a joke and laughs in front of Charles Boyer and Maria Ouspenskaya, and she is quite devastating in the hospital bed scene--but outside of that I failed to really find anything there to be impressed by. I suppose it doesn't help that I'm not much of a Dunne fan to begin with. Her offbeat Dunne-y delight style of acting, filled with its little ooh and hmm mannerisms, doesn't really work to her benefit in regards to Love Affair's slow pacing and romanticized overtones...at least not as much as it did in The Awful Truth. I feel that Dunne's performance in the latter works as well as it does because her acting meshes perfectly with Truth's quirkier screwball eccentricities. In my opinion, a film with overwrought contrivances calls for an actor with a passionate and fiery demeanor to complement the silliness of what is going on in the story; that's not to say that Dunne has no passion per se, but she is an actress who tends to underplay, and while that might be perfect for cinephiles who favor restraint and naturalism in their actors, it doesn't do anything for me...at least not here. Dunne sort of falls flat at times and sort of muffles the melodrama of the picture, and she left me thinking that someone else could have done all of that to a better effect. But I suppose it simply comes down to a matter of taste: Dunne's definitely not bad, she's actually great at times...and I see where others may be taken by her, but as an overall piece I just don't think there was enough there to make it a standout or memorable performance.


7 comments:

  1. I like her here, but the movie is truly boring...

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  2. I won't comment on Irene, I'll leave that for my blog.
    And I have yet to see the film again, haven't seen it in... maaany years.

    But I remember loving the film. :) So I'm not with you on that. And I still listen to "Sing My Heart"...

    what did u think of Miss Ouspenskaya? :)

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    1. we'll see if you change your mind on the film or not...since it's been so long :P

      I did like the song though! It was catchy, and Dunne is an excellent singer!

      As for Ouspenskaya...she's effective with what she has to do. Just like with Dunne I'm neither for her nor against her. Do I think she deserved the supporting nomination?...Probably not. You're gonna have to be pretty excellent to justify taking the nomination over Joan Crawford or Rosalind Russell in The Women. (I really loved The Women if you haven't figured that out yet :P)

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    2. I also really enjoyed The Women (back when I saw it, maybe a decade ago), but... I appreciate nominations that are rather strange or sometimes unexpected, keeping a secret admiration for the surprise factor. Like this one, or Hermione Baddeley's.

      Or, what might just be my favourite WTF nomination of the last decade, the Costume Design nom for "I Am Love". It just says: "We're cool" about the Costume Branch (which, at the time, I think it was the Art Director's branch).

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  3. I agree with you. I didn't care very much for the movie, too...

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    1. It wasn't a performance that POPPED to me. Instead, very laid-back, and I respect that, but it's not for me. One of those in-between perfs where I neither hate it or like it.

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  4. For all of her 'naturalism' on camera, I find Dunne a rather coy and mannered actress. She underplays but does so to the point where she lacks vibrancy, and I don't mean 'emoting'. I'm referring to the emotional presence of her character. Dunne, to me, seems undercharged here to the point of detachment, a problem in many of her performances. When coupled with a rather boring love story, where the characters exchange insincerities for 10 minutes and then fall madly in love, it becomes a long 90 minutes. 1939 may have been a year filled with great movies but this wasn't one of them.

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