Adam of Club Silencio here with another look at my favorite actresses and their distinguishing claims to fame.
Lush is a perfect word to describe Gena Rowlands. Such is her screen talent, but she also often plays characters who've taken to the bottle. Her glorious drunken musings in Minnie and Moskowitz, her solo night out in A Woman Under the Influence, her bar detour in Gloria; Gena's got a gift for going it soused. She certainly knows well to hide behind a pair of dark sunglasses.
Gena's under the influence of something no doubt. At her peak level of punch-drunk in Opening Night, it's a wonder to drink in Gena's hard-hitting disintegration as stage-legend Myrtle Gordon. It's the way she feels out her environments as she disconnects more and more with each tip of the glass. Those subtle tipsy stumbles as her eyebrows peak and droop with every tug off the bottle.
The magic in this case is that Gena's actually playing an actress with a heavy drinking problem who can still pull out all the stops once she's on stage. Gena's not only acting the part of a drunk, she's acting the part of a drunk who's trying to appear sober. The layers of liquored-up brilliance, and that's just her entrance.
Gena Rowlands is one of the definitive best, and such a travesty she's hardly gotten the parts she deserves since John Cassavetes' devastating death. How I dread the thought that younger audiences are thinking, "Oh, it's that old woman from The Skeleton Key and The Notebook." She could drink you kids under the table!