Monday. Time for Reader Request [Use comments to request] Today’s topic was suggested by John T: Favorite Performance By A Child in a Movie
In real life I love kids. If I were super-wealthy like Mia Farrow or Agelina Jolie I'd probably adopt a whole bundle, too. In reel life I sing a different song. When I see tykes in movies I get nervous. They often stink up the joint, ruining good scenes with painfully stilted line readings.
Sometimes I find myself wishing a movie would jump forward in time so that a child actor could be replaced quickly [Example: Just rewatched Auntie Mame and I was counting down the minutes until young Patrick (Jan Handzlik) would go to college when I knew he'd suddenly be played by Roger Smith, an actor that Rosalind Russell, Peggy Cass, and Coral Browne could perform with rather than act around in the Oscar-nominated comedy.]
Generally speaking I think that American children are worse actors than foreign ones. I think this has to do with excessive television-watching and a resulting lack of naturalism: They're trying to do what they see as opposed to just being what they are. Dakota Fanning and Haley Joel Osment, two much lauded child actors, are not typical of their breed. The reason so many people find them spooky is that their performances seem adult in mind if not in appearance.
I haven't looked at any movie lists to write this post so I'm operating on cinematic memory. But my choices for the two best performances are both from films that I've only seen once. I've never been able to shake either.
My runner up comes from an Australian film called Careful He Might Hear You. The actor playing a young orphaned boy is Nicholas Gledhill. Like many child actors not much of a career followed but I remember being astonished by him as well as the woman playing his aunt, Wendy Hughes, when it was released here in America. The movie is a gripping custody battle over the seven year-old.
Without hesitation I'd name the best acting I've ever seen from a child coming from Victoire Thivisol in the French film Ponette. I don't cry much at the movies. A few times a year my eyes will well up. Maybe once or twice a tear might escape. But when I saw Ponette it was plain old school weeping that occurred. I would have nominated Thivisol for Best Actress that year. I would almost have handed her the Oscar. I still remember her work vividly. I still think it's miraculous that the performance exists. I still wonder how it was wrestled on to the screen. She plays a young child who has suddenly lost her mother. She is confused, sad, lonely, and adrift. Victoire Thivisol was four years old. The film is a grade A cinematic study of grief and coping mechanisms. It has to be seen to be believed.
Use the comments to suggest a topic for next week. Or discuss this one.
previous requests: Classics I Haven't Seen (for Glenn) Favorite Animals (for Cal) Cher (for David) and The Sound of Music (for Becky)
tags: Dakota Fanning, child actors, movies, cinema, movies, Auntie Mame, Haley Joel Osment