April 5, 2015

Greer Garson, Madame Curie

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The Role: as the pioneering scientist who *overcomes all odds* to discover radium, and in turn redefining the face of science, this is the kind of role that Oscar will eat up over and over and over again. It's the kind of role that inherently stands for *importance*, thus typically ensuring an actor an Oscar nomination very handily (because what could be more important than the story of real people doing important things?). So I can't begrudge this nomination by Oscar's reigning Best Actress and decade Golden Child Greer Garson; anyone else playing it would have nab herself a spot in the top five as well. But I can begrudge how dull both picture and actress are.

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What I Didn't Like: It's an inconsistent performance, that's for sure. Which is interesting, because I'd have never pegged Garson to be an inconsistent actress. Boring at times...perhaps. But she's usually uniform enough in her acting to carry out a cohesive performance. I'll go ahead and blame the inconsistencies on the film, because Madame Curie just sucks. Golden-era Hollywood filmmaking was too simplified to be tackling science-based biopics, and like The Story of Louis Pasteur, watching Madame Curie I often felt as though I was watching a video you feed fourth graders during Science class to watch so that they can get the very watered-down, bare-bones version of something they would otherwise not really be able to grasp. That in turn affects Garson's performance, who is given horrid, corny dialogue for which she cannot pull off. (For instance, instead of simply saying "I've discovered a new element!", she's forced to yammer on and give viewers a step by step briefing on science in early 1900s so that we can be set up to understand the importance of this moment before announcing that she's discovered a new element.) And often times it feels like Garson and Pidgeon are just playing dress-up in the worst and obvious way--both glammed up and lit and coiffed and uttering long-winded monologues about science--and it's painfully clear that neither gets the brevity of what they're talking about. Simply put, she's in over her head here--I don't buy her for a damn second as a great scientist because it just looks like she's an amateur playing dress-up. Doesn't help that the film sucks a big one and Garson unfortunately lacks the glowing radiance that made her previously banal films a little more watchable (Goodbye, Mr. Chips, Blossoms in the Dust).

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What I Liked: However, the one thing that I really, truly enjoyed about Garson here is her commitment. She may not be pulling it off, but you can tell that she's really trying her best to make it happen. She has an amazing ability at making it look like she really believes the things she's saying and the things that are happening, such that watching her I'm almost on board (even though I'm not really). So it's kind of funny how that is, that the commitment seems to be there and yet the performance as a whole lacks consistency. Regardless, it's not one of her better nominations, and even though on paper it checks off all the clich├ęs that equate to a nomination, the end result makes this nomination look superfluous.


  1. I watched it when I was much younger and all the more impressionable, but read up too, so I knew it was a 'prestige' MGM outing, and I suppose I went into it with a reverence it isn't due. Now, I think I'd watch with a scalpel closer at hand.

    Garson was Mayer's 'new Shearer,' and to Crawford's frustration, when Norma moved on to the skiing slopes with her new, younger husband, and Garbo said 'that's it for me too' Joan thought she'd ascend to MGM queen and the pick of the litter would be coming her way. With new rivals in both Garson and Hepburn, Crawford soon headed for the exit too. Warners signed her less than a week after, and a deserved albeit brief redemption lay ahead.

  2. This one's actually slightly better than Mrs Parkington, just to give you the right expectation level. :)

    1. ah great -_-

      I take it that the valley of decision is better than this one too?

    2. Valley of Decision is very, very good but not better! Don't listen to this guy's opinion.

  3. Just a bit better if I can remember it, I think I ranked it... 3 stars. Or a high 2? Anyway, I don't think you'd give it more than 2 Oscars. And Mrs. Parkington is gonna be 1 Oscar... or 2 at most. I predict :P

  4. I can't believe what I just read about this guy's opinion about Madame Curie! This is one of my favorite Garson/Pidgeon movies and their performances were wonderful! How can you say Garson is a boring actress?! She's inconsistent? Are you kidding me? I know everyone has their own opinion, but this is awful! You can ask any Garson fan and they will definitely disagree with you? What a shame if people listen to what you say!

    1. "I know everyone has their own opinion, but this is awful!"

      The specific purpose of this blog is for me to watch movies and chronicle my own opinions. It's meant for people who enjoy movies/the Oscars to come with their own opinions in a manner such that we can foster a healthy and civil dialogue with one another.

      I don't apologize for having a different opinion than you do. In fact, I welcome different opinions--it'd be boring if we all shared the same thoughts on movies and actors and performances.

      But please refrain from commenting on my blog if you are going to be hostile because someone out there on the internet doesn't think the same thing as you do. I don't plan on going onto your Google+ page to freak out about how mediocre I think Greer Garson is, so I'd like that you be respectful in my own space.


  5. Because I disagree with you I'm hostile??? You say you like other opinions but when I disagreed with you.. you say I am hostile. So sorry! It won't happen again. I found your blog by mistake (big mistake!) so you won't have to worry about my "hostile" remarks again.

    1. No, you are not hostile because you disagree with me. You are hostile because you say things like:

      "What a shame if people listen to what you say!"
      "I know everyone has their own opinion, but this is awful!"
      "Don't listen to this guy's opinion."

      It is the verbiage you use, indicating a person getting defensive over a stranger's opinion, that comes off as hostile. If you look at other people's comments on this blog who disagree with me (which I don't expect you to) you'll find that the verbiage they use aren't of the same tone.

      "Big mistake!" indeed. Bye!