Kim Basinger won an Oscar for her performance as Lynn Bracken in Curtis Hansen's L.A. Confidential. I'm sure that before L.A. Confidential came out, nobody ever would have ever that thought that Kim Basinger could have even come close to being an Oscar nominee --much less a winner! That just proves what the right role in the right movie (and a weak year for nominees) can do for any actor and actress so--keep hope alive Taylor Lautner and Megan Fox! All kidding aside, Basinger's win is one that isn't very popular but on paper she has the most academy friendly role besides Gloria Stuart. She's in a film that was a huge hit with the Academy, she looks stunning throughout the film (don't think that doesn't play a role in voting), and she is startling better than she ever had been at this time. Oh yeah, and she's a prostitute! The stars just aligned right for her to become an Academy Award winner. I happen to think she's actually somewhat good in this movie, and far from the worst Oscar winner.
The role of Lynn Bracken is a very limited part, she doesn't do much in way of plot besides sleep with a couple of men, and her whole purpose is to be mysterious and sexy. All of these things play perfectly to Basinger's strengths, and that's why she handles herself to capably. Her stiff acting style and unique, sultry voice helps to give Lynn an unorthodox mystique. For the beginning portion of her performance her character is supposed to be simply an ethereal enigma that attracts Russell Crowe's Bud White. In two short scenes she is meant to be nothing more than appealing, and she does that well. Her physical resemblance to Veronica Lake also helps out a lot obviously, because that is the whole conceit of the character. She doesn't really do much deep acting in these scenes, because that is not what is asked of her. Instead she gives her character a real presence that works.
Eventually we finally get to see some more sides of Lynn Bracken as her relationship with Bud White develops into a romance. Basinger and Crowe don't have much chemistry, but their relationship works on the most basic level. Her character ends up being exactly what you would expect--a stripper with a heart of gold, and where Basinger struggles is making Lynn anything beyond a trite plot device. When she is asked to show some real acting she isn't bad (far better than anything I've seen her in), but she never really succeeds either. Her performance works better on a physical and atmospheric level. She is so well cast and never makes any real missteps that I find this performance hard to really criticize. More to blame is the script and the fact that her character has no real arc or growth. Lynn Bracken doesn't do anything worthwhile in the film, and Basinger doesn't even really get an 'Oscar scene'.
Should this performance have won an Academy Award? The answer is a resounding no. Is it deserving of a nomination? Well, not particularly but it's far from the worst performance that has ever been nominated, and actually is something of a unique performance. Basinger needed to be rewarded for her performance, but not with film awards. Maybe it's my adoration for L.A. Confidential that allows me to excuse this performance so much, but I just don't get all the negative criticism. Ambivalence seems more appropriate. 3.5/5 Thelmas.
Oh, and Happy Holidays to everyone! :)