July 11, 2015

Louise Dresser, A Ship Comes In


From the get-go, it's obvious that A Ship Comes In already has an preconceived idea of what Mama Pleznik is. That idea certainly isn't that of a multi-dimensional human being. One might say that Mama Pleznik isn't really much of a "woman" really, but more like a concentration of really superficial and generic qualities associated to a certain kind of woman. If anything, Mama Pleznik is a background player, a passive housewife to the fullest extent. The film ensures this through its rather demeaning verbiage-- she's described as "fixing new clothes, so busy and happy, like a queen," and when it comes to her baking a cake during the war, she is called as being, "so handicapped by the slogan "use no sugar"." The most stark thing about seeing Dresser through this rewatch is realizing just how little she does in this film and how little the story allows her to do, even in spite of the fact that she's supposed to be the person with whom we feel for the most in the film. It seems as though her performance is just about 90 percent of her delivering a look that reads as "defeated" and "worried," and her big dramatic scene in the film doesn't do much to offset the blistering amounts of mediocrity that makes up the remainder of her performance. There's hardly enough there to even say that she's the warm center or heart of the film--rather, she is much more an inconsequential supporting character than anything else. It's surprising then that Dresser managed to get Academy Award attention, especially given that Insider Oscar makes note that the film wasn't very widely seen. But I suppose Dresser's inclusion, in all its bland, minimalistic glory, is telling of the organization's preferences in its female filmic representations. Dresser is an interesting actress, and I suspect this inaugural year would be just about the only year she'd have ever been able to get into the "Best Actress" category...but there's just nothing here.

1 comment:

  1. You sum it up perfectly. :) I hope that Janet Gaynor will do better with you this time!