Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Rosie Perez in Fearless

Rosie Perez received her first and only Oscar nomination to date for her performance as Carla Rodrigo in Peter Weir's Fearless. My opinion on this performance and the film is general is pretty much the same: They weren't bad per se, but I have nothing but tepid admiration for each. The film starts out with a plane crash that leaves Max Klein (Jeff Bridges)a changed man with a newfound sense of self, becoming more free and reckless as a result. This puts his marriage on the rocks when he strikes up a friendship with another woman named Carla (Perez) who was on the flight and lost her son in the crash. This isn't a film that is focused so much on plot as on character, and is all about waking up in life and finding yourself amid the crazy world we live in.

Out of all the performances in the Supporting Actress category in 1993, this was easily the hardest one to judge and make a write up about. With the other four, I had a strong opinions either for (Thompson, Paquin) or against (Ryder, Hunter) them, and with Perez I found myself kind of stuck in the middle. In a way, that could almost be worse than a negative opinion: indifference. The performance was one with not a lot of highs or lows, but rather one that was consistently solid without elevating beyond that point. The role is one that is tailor made for the Academy: a mother grieving for her son. Perez has a lot of scenes that should deliver 'Oscar moments', plenty of crying and yelling and shouting in despair. It just seems like Rosie can never pull together a complete, full character out of her performance (which is partially the script's fault).

It's a shame that Rosie couldn't pull together an outstanding performance, but she does manage to save the role as best she can, and is definitely not a detriment to a film that seems determined to trip itself up at every moment. In the beginning of the film, she does an adequate job at portraying her grief and despair over the death of her son. She is a master of the furrowed brow and the sullen look, and has her angry scenes down. Even though the script plays games with her emotions, making her character horribly uneven she manages to keep a steady and play each of those emotions as best she can. Her best scenes are easily the ones following the car crash, where we really begin to feel the growth that Max has helped Carla go through. Her character has renewed vibrancy and the life she thought was gone after the death of her son almost visually rushes back into Rosie's performance. It's the only real breathtaking moment in the performance, and one that the whole film pivots on.

I can't not touch on the voice. Rosie Perez is a really interesting and brave choice for a role like this-- one that would probably not happen very often. The way she talks adds a little bit more depth and personality to the character, but can also be damaging. Anytime we see Carla breaking down and crying, the voice just takes you out of the scene. It's high pitched mixed with a heavy Brooklyn accent that has an almost comedic effect, which is not good considering that this woman is supposed to be breaking down. The only thing I can compare it to is the unintentional comedy of Katharine Hepburn's performance in On Golden Pond. I know that is not something that Rosie can help because it is her voice, but perhaps she could have compensated for it somehow?

Rosie Perez gives a good performance in Fearless, but one that never goes beyond that. The script limits her abilities to create a complete character, but she fights as best she can against it. Overall, the performance is good but nothing special and hardly nomination worthy. 3/5 Thelmas.

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