Apr 4, 2015

Walter Pidgeon, Madame Curie


The Role: as the supportive husband to Marie Curie who acts as her motivating force as she works towards discovering the new element radium. After his major head-scratcher of a nomination in Mrs. Miniver I wasn't expecting much, so it was a surprise to find that at he had significantly more screentime this time around. The role and performance itself however...is pretty much a more thorough extension of Mr. Miniver.

What I Didn't Like: Simply put, what I didn't like about this performance would be that there's not a whole lot to like. Madame Curie is a silly little attempt at a serious, prestige biopic and Pierre Curie is represented by Pidgeon here rather clumsily. He calls himself early on as an awkward individual and yet he never truly comes off as that way; instead he kind of just trounces along as through scenes as many leading men do with his lower register, reacting incredulously at things while the narrative hastily takes shape. It's obvious that Pidgeon isn't emulating the character as much as he is going with the flow with the idea of the character; there doesn't seem to be much commitment here that was present as with say, Paul Muni in The Story of Louis Pasteur. So I guess my issue here was that Pidgeon doesn't really dig as deep as he could have to make this performance more than what it is--another forgettable supportive spouse role--but it's not as though Pidgeon is the type of nuanced actor I would expect to be able to flesh out a multifaceted character. What's more, Pierre, the brilliant man as he is, is limited to being a guiding force for Marie's excellence. Thus, the role itself isn't made to be a great one; he's just there to encourage Marie to continue with her journey the few times she inevitably grows too flustered with it all (her womanhood just can't take it I suppose) and he barks out a handful of sexist comments (including one about how women not being in the home is just nuts) that are hard to swallow; had I not done some light research on Pierre I'd never have known the accomplishments that he'd achieve in his lifetime, and that's just a discredit towards the film.

What I Liked: Still, the nomination isn't as nutty as that of his Mrs. Miniver nod. Pidgeon has much more screentime, such that it's a rough 45-55 distribution between he and Greer Garson. And the role gives him some opportunities to flourish where Mrs. Miniver just didn't bother. And I could tell that he was ready to sink his teeth into these moments, and he does a decent enough job, but it's just not groundbreaking enough to warrant a nomination for one of the best of the year. It's...acceptable, and I liked it a helluva lot more than I did his Clem Miniver, but that's not saying a whole lot. If anything, I think it's a hoot that Pidgeon managed two Oscar nominations in his name for playing male characters who support female characters and are a lot less significant than said female characters in films titled after those titular female characters. That's a pretty impressive standalone record, no?

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