February 17, 2015

Greer Garson, Mrs. Miniver

as KAY MINIVER
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Won: Academy Award - Best Actress
As you might have already read, I wasn't a fan of Mrs. Miniver. But my discontent with the film doesn't totally sync with my feelings towards Greer Garson. I'll start off by saying that I think she's perfectly fine in this part--the part being that of the warm, radiant, strait-laced upperclass lady. But I'm not interested in that. I care more about what Kay Miniver goes through and whether or not Garson can impress beyond the dull confines of the film as well as the confines of what we expect from her. And typically I'm pretty sold with one-woman shows à la Erin Brockovich or La Vie en Rose, but this one was a little lacking in the excitement department.

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 photo Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 8.51.27 PM.jpgI'll start off with the pros: Garson epitomizes tenderness in this film. It pretty much bleeds it from her pores, as if she doesn't even have to try, as if she is just as warm in real life as in the film. She has some wonderfully acted moments, particularly the climactic scene with Teresa Wright near the end, in which she packs a punch as we witness her tightly coiled resilience showing cracks. But regardless, I couldn't help but feel underwhelmed throughout the picture. Ultimately I realized that it's because I just didn't really care about Kay Miniver. Her struggles in the film are tame to say the least, and this was the film where I felt as though her upper-class status was more of a liability than anything. Mrs. Miniver is an inherently good person and yet she doesn't really accomplish anything with this film. She kind of just goes with the flow, faces her mini-challenges with a lot of shock and awe, and...makes it out okay. Mrs. Miniver's journey in the film doesn't provide for all too many heavy moments, which was quite odd to me given that it's a film about WWII. Garson is absolutely gorgeous and the camera loves her in this film, and yet it loves her a little too much, offering her a few too many glam close-up shots where it looks as though, in this moment of struggle, Kay Miniver just needs a second to pose and glaze her eyes over a bit in order to convey her beauty (seriously, I lost count how many times this happened). In other words, I never felt like Garson was being at all challenged by this, her most famous role, and she doesn't really do anything here that's exceeding my expectations of her. She just shows up and does well the things that she...usually does well. It's hardly a multi-faceted performance, but it's an OK, watchable piece of work that occasionally has a moment of greatness. And it's acted by a woman who has thus far proven to be consistent enough but never quite extraordinary.

6 comments:

  1. She's the best part of the film for me, but I always had the feeling that she could do much more with the material...

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    1. funny, i thought that she did the best she could with what was given to her. Mrs. Miniver herself isn't a very interesting character imo

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  2. There's a saying, "Adversity is like a strong wind. It blows away from us all but that which cannot be blown away, so that we see ourselves as we really are."

    In Gone With The Wind such a moment profoundly comes, and to its audience's great unnerving, as we watch Scarlett scrounge a radish or carrot from the ground, then swearing by a raised fist to God, she'll turn murderer before she'll ever be hungry again. Such a scene, where all artifice falls away from the story's heroine and we get to judge the quality of her fortitude is woefully needed in Miniver and we don't get it. Garson probably would loved such a moment, risen fearlessly to the chance, and bolstered her win.

    As it is, I feel like Now Voyager's Mrs. Henry Wendell Vale is a far more malignant threat to her daughter Charlotte than those disruptive German bullets tearing up Kay Miniver's backyard.

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    1. Too much of a heavenly saint for my tastes. I suppose we don't need to judge the quality of her fortitude because for the fortitude to plop itself onto sweet Mrs. Miniver's lap to begin with is punishment enough... I guess my issue with her is that she's so terribly perfect.

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