Friday, March 23, 2012

Celeste Holm in Come to the Stable

Celeste Holm received her second Oscar nomination for her performance as Sister Scholastica in Henry Koster's Come to the Stable. On paper, Come to the Stable seems like the sort of crowd pleasing, feel good film that occasionally can gain a lot of traction at the Academy Awards (most recent example: The Blind Side), but hidden underneath it's cheery surface is one seriously bizarre film. It is about two nuns (played by Loretta Young and Holm) who are on a mission "from God" to build a children's hospital in the small New England town of Bethlehem. All that is fine, except these are nuns that use their standing to break into people's houses uninvited, drive at what appears to be hundreds of miles per hour, and just generally take advantage of everyone under the pretense of doing "God's work". All this strangeness comes together in a climactic, match? I found myself laughing in disbelief more than a few times at this altogether strange experience, and I'm baffled the Academy for admiring this weird film enough to give it 7(!) nominations.

Now on to Celeste Holm, who plays the funnily named Sister Scholastica, who is one of the two nuns to undertake this mountainous endeavor along with Loretta Young. They are together on screen in every single scene in the film, though I don't have any problem with Holm being in the supporting category because she really plays the role of Young's sidekick for the entire film. Sister Scholastica is a French nun who does not speak very good English, and thus Young does most of the talking and negotiating for the two of them. This leaves poor Celeste Holm to smile cheerily at her side and occasionally repeat something she says in a French accent. I really had no problem with her accent, which I found convincing enough to work. No, it's not a perfect accent by any means but it's convincing and quite frankly who cares if she got it right? Holm is a good actress for this part because she is just such a charming and affable presence and does the most she can with the part, which usually involves smiling....a lot.

Is this mind-blowing work? Not by any means, because I don't think anybody could give a substantially effective performance with this material. Instead, Holm works it the best she can and has a lot of loveable moments. She gets to be adorable as she hands out St. Jude medals to gangsters, and has a hidden talent for tennis. In this scene, probably her most important plot wise in the whole film, she reveals her "dark" past as a tennis player as if she used to be murderer and God would hate her for playing tennis. It's such a bizarre scene as we watch Holm play tennis in her habit and you can't help but laugh at the ridiculousness of the game. How Holm got a nomination for essentially being Loretta Young's sidekick I'll never know, but I can't hate on this performance. There is nothing substantial to hate. 2.5/5 Fancy Funerals.

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