Monday, November 09, 2009

Monologue - Beauty Queen

Jose here bringing you the Monday Monologue.



From the moment Erin Brockovich was released, in March of 2000, everyone knew that Julia Roberts would win an Oscar for it. There was nary a review that did not point out how fantastic she was, how she carried the burdens of a dramatic role so well (after practically creating the entire rom-com movement throughout the 90's) and how big her boobs looked.

But beyond the awards craze, the "she can act" novelty and the miniskirts, the truth is that Julia had created a character all her own. One that might've looked and sounded like Julia Roberts, but was all Erin Brockovich.

This is never as evident as in a small, intimate scene where Erin opens up to a man (her biker neighbor played by Aaron Eckhart) for the first time in years.
Are you gonna be something else that I have to survive?
she asks him after a mini breakdown (notice how she subtly implodes, instead of chewing the scenery).

She then goes on telling him about her one year stint as beauty queen.
So I get up on the stage, in the center of the stage and I have a big bouquet of flowers and I have my foot out like this and I say 'I will devote my entire reign as Miss Wichita to bringing an end to world hunger and to the creation of a peaceful Earth for every man, woman and child'.
The scene is directed by Steven Soderbergh as if he'd been possessed by Francois Truffaut or a kinder version of Godard, in how he lets the editing create cadences about what Erin isn't saying.
The scene plays out like Erin would remember it, once she was back fighting the evil corporations, being her good, old, potty mouthed self.

Roberts makes Erin laugh at herself and tell this anecdote as something silly to pass the time. But the bittersweet truth is that this might very well be her "I coulda been a contender" speech, something in her eyes is telling us that she wished she could've solved all the world's troubles, or her own for starters.

For the first time in the movie Erin becomes truly aware of her mortality and lost opportunities. And for the first time in her career Julia showed us why she's destined to become immortal.

38 comments:

Arlo said...

She was definitely great but I still wish Ellen would have won. Oh well.

Arlo said...

Extra thought: That was a really solid year for actresses in general. Julia, Ellen, Joan Allen, Laura Linney, Bjork, Renee in Nurse Betty, Brenda Blethyn, any woman in Todo Sobre Mi Madre and Crouching Tiger...

NATHANIEL R said...

beautiful assessment of that scene -- especially fun idea about Soderbergh's approach and Julia's own 'how Erin would remember it'.

for as annoying as Julia Roberts 'entitled' persona sometimes got, she really was marvelous in that movie. marvelous. marvelous.

and yes, 2000 was a crackerjack best actress year. At least 8 or 9 worthy performances. But only 5 could be nominated.

Henry said...

Ugh. I honestly don't think either the film or Roberts was deserving of the praise it got. It was a showy role in the middle of a film that had no dramatic heft. I would honestly buy that Ellen Burstyn should have gotten the Best Actress award that Roberts has basically squandered in the years following the win. You really think Erin Brockovich was better than Sara in Requiem For a Dream?! Blasphemous!

I'm honestly tired of all of the praise Erin Brockovich got and has gotten over the years. Enough already...

NATHANIEL R said...

henry who said she was better than Ellen? The post is merely about how good she was in the movie and this is my favorite scene in the whole movie so, well done Jose!

Peter said...

It was a pretty good year for movies in general that year. But when I look back at what I thought were the best movies that year- at the time, I was all for a TRAFFIC win, especially after the ALMOST FAMOUS snub. I never thought ERIN BROCKOVICH should have been on the top 5, despite Julia Roberts' marvelous performance. But its funny what time does to movies. I think Erin Brockovich is aging really well, and getting better with each viewing. So I would definitely place ERIN BROCKOVICH on my top 5 that year, along with ALMOST FAMOUS; WONDER BOYS; CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON; and REQUIEM FOR A DREAM. Traffic is a close 6.

Luke said...

Though I certainly agree that this was a great performance from Julia Roberts, it's kind of disappointing that the undervalued Laura Linney gave the performance of her career in the same year... Is she ever going to hit another high note like that? Somebody call Kenneth Lonergan stat!

Carlo said...

It's about time that this website that I love so much focus, for once, on one of the 2 most influential actresses of the past 50 years ( Meryl Streep, the other). With that said, Julia did influence a generation of horrible actresses. So being influential is not always a good thing. The problem was that these actresses tried to emulate Julia, instead of carving an acting syle of their own (KATE HUDSON, KATHARINE HEIGL, and almost every actress in their 20's that try to do a romantic comedy ). But what Julia had was not just a specific acting style, Julia Roberts was a real movie star at its purest form. Its either you have it or you don't. It can't be copied, it can't be taught in acting school. Some actors dont have it, and some do- TOM CRUISE, PAUL NEWMAN, AUDREY HEPBURN, GEORGE CLOONEY, CARY GRANT, BRAD PITT etc. They all had that special something that set them apart, but they are usually are not appreciated by the artsy 'film snobs' until late in their career when they look back at the legacy that each one of them have left behind. They are not known for their range, and it doesn't matter what movie they're in or how well theyve embodied their character in the film- we never forget that its them up in the screen, because they are a distinctive group of actors that are just larger than life itself. ERIN BROCKOVICH required a larger than life persona on the title role. If you cast a character actor like Laura Linney (whom I love) it would not have the same effect.

Anonymous said...

great movie , great performance. I'm ready for a comeback by Julia Roberts. We're in dire need of real female movie star power, something we havent seen from any actresses since she ruled the 90's.

miguelc3891 said...

DEFINITELY HER BEST MOVIE. I WANNA KNOW WHO MS. ROBERTS THINKS WHO THE NEXT BIG FEMALE MOVIE STAR WOULD BE. AUDREY HEPBURN WAS ASKED THAT SAME QUESTION BEFORE SHE DIED AND SHE SAID JULIA ROBERTS, SHE EVEN CHOSE JULIA ROBERTS TO ACCEPT AN AWARD FOR HER WHEN SHE COULDNT ATTEND DUE TO HER ILLNESS. AND WHEN KATHARINE HEPBURN WAS ASKED WHO SHE LIKED WATCHING. SHE FAMOUSLY SAID THAT SHE LIKES MELANIE GRIFFITH, BUT SHE WAS GONNA FADE PRETTY QUICK, AND THEN SHE NAMED JULIA ROBERTS AS THE NEXT BIG THING. SO WHEN THEY HAD AN OSCAR TRIBUTE FOR MS. HEPBURN BACK IN 2004, IT WAS MS. ROBERTS WHO PRESENTED IT. I WOULD PICK RACHEL MCADAMS.

Howler said...

I still can't comprehend what the hell happened to Bjork that year. She is the clear winner to me - it's so rare for an actor to truly give 200% of what people expect them to be capable of, and to put all their heart in the film, not just their performance.
I love "Erin Brochovich" probably a little more than Julia in it and I would vote for Ellen, but I'm terribly sad that this win makes "the worst best actress winners" so often.

NATHANIEL R said...

howler -- to me that's a clear sign that people are angry about her rather than thinking about the performance. In general I am not anything close to a Julia Roberts fan. This would be her only nomination if I ruled the world.

But it's nowhere close to an embarrassing Oscar win. And there've been so many of those over the years.

joy said...

This is my favorite scene as well. I wasn't a huge fan of the film back then but have growing much fonder of it over the years.

However, I still think Julia's best performance is in "My Best Friend's Wedding". The scene on the boat with Mulroney and the scene at the end with Everett are probably her finest moments ever.

Jose said...

She did prove this was no one time thing four years later in "Closer", where I, for one, was thrilled someone got a part over Cate Blanchett.

Henry said...

I've been upset for years that Roberts got this award, and in my earlier comment, I was saying that the Academy thought Roberts was better than Ellen. I don't vehemently hate Roberts (I thought she was actually good in Duplicity); I just never understood the praise that Erin Brockovich got as a film overall and as a role. They were, in my opinion, both average at best. But hey, I'm not an Academy voter. I don't decide these things....

rj said...

oh yes.......CLOSER. Thanks for mentioning that Jose. It was a brief, but haunting performance.

NAT, I think her performance in Steel Magnolias was rightfully nominated. It was just such a star making performance in Pretty Woman (one of the best of its kind too) that the Academy just felt the need to honor her in some kinda way-a way to honor the biggest female star theyve seen to come out in a while- which they did so with a nomination. But it wouldnt be in my top5, maybe number 6 or 7 for that year at the highest.

SOMENAVYGUY said...

Jose- very well written dissection of an exceptional scene. Plus a great tribute to Julia Roberts' best performance. agree with Closer too.

Chris Na Taraja said...

I stopped drinking tap water years ago because Julia Roberts was so convincing. But now I spend at least $10 to $15 a week on water. That's somewhere in the vicinity of $600 a year!

Glenn Dunks said...

In regards to popular "what were the Academy thinking?" moments the Julia Roberts win is probably the furthest at the bottom for me. Not only is it obvious why JULIA ROBERTS won, but she was also amazing in it. No, not the best of the year, but amazing nonetheless. How often is it that a movie star wins an Oscar for performance that actually truly phenomenal?

And, besides, Ellen Burstyn had already won an Oscar. And considering how many people say "i can't believe so-and-so has never won an Oscar" I imagine that if Roberts had lost people would be saying "how come she hasn't won an Oscar when Ellen Burstyn has two?!?" It was like what happened with Mickey Rourke last year, saying that was his crowning achievement and it might not ever happen again.

Of course, The Wrestler is a film for cinephiles whereas Erin Brockovich was just a populist hit. :/

Henry said...

To consider how much disdain I have for this performance, I always cite this as a comparison example when I rail against the injustices of the world that "Julia Roberts has an Oscar, but Julianne Moore does not."

How can you explain something like that?! I can't, although I have to cite a bit of favortism because I love almost anything Julianne Moore is in and I have to push aside my dislike of Roberts in order to see some movies (see: Ocean's Eleven and Charlie Wilson's War as prime examples of this trend recently).

Anonymous said...

I love JULIA !!!

Glenn said...

It's reactions like Henry's that make me shake my head in disbelief. If this is what gets you that angry then there's no point arguing.

If Julianne ever wins one you'll probably complain about the movie or that she beat someone else or something else altogether.

Anonymous said...

Julia playing Julia....again. I'm so glad she's practically washed up now

thefilmgoer said...

JULIA ROBERTS , when its all said and done, when we look back years from now will be looked at as a legend. Everyone had a problem of her ubiquitousness a few years back, Nicole Kidman has the same problem right now. and so does Tom Cruise and her n Julianne Moore are not even the same kind of actresses. Its like comparing Elizabeth Taylor to Bette Davis or Audrey Hepburn to Greta Garbo. I like what one guy said here earlier on the comments about Julia having limited range, but she's great within her range. Romantic Comedies requires different kind of skills, one that's not appreciated as much as drama. Julianne Moore or Cate Blanchett, or Nicole Kidman- 3 actresses that I love cant even pull a romantic comedy together. Julia Roberts can. Ever notice why there hasnt been a great romantic comedy in years (save 500 days of summer which was a thing of beauty) since the Julia days of the 90's- PRETTY WOMAN, MY BEST FRIEND'S WEDDING, NOTTING HILL- her 3 best. n here range

but she cant just be pigeonholed on romantic comedies (unlike Meg Ryan or Sandra Bullock who have never delivered anything remotely good in a drama- save Sandra Bullock's limited screen time in Crash- a movie I hated, but a performance that I really like), since she delivered great dramatic performances in Steel Magnolias, Erin Brockovich, and Closer.

NATHANIEL R said...

henry the oscar treatment of Julianne MOore makes me crazy as well (obviously she's won of my top ten favs of all time) but frankly she has made a lot of TERRIBLE movies. as many bad ones as Julia Roberts maybe. I hate to admit that since Julianne Moore has also made more great movies than Julia.

but, again, they're very different actresses. Julianne Moore is a genius at internal drama and identity issues... Julia Robert is a STAR and a fine populist actress within a limited range.

but Glenn is right. If Julia had lost here people would still be bitching about how Julia Roberts never won an Oscar.

let's save our ire for people who win for average performances or worse

DN said...

CHARISMA. Some actress are charismatic like Laura Linney, but what Julia Roberts has is a huge CHARISMA. Some actresses are great actresses, like Julianne Moore. But Julia Roberts is a huge STAR with a huge CHARISMA. And that´s magnetic. I adore Ellen Burstyn, I adore Requiem for a Dream, but Julia Roberts in Erin Brockovich is 1000 times more haunting than her (and 10 times more haunting than Björk, now you can hit me. And Joy has said it very well. My best friend´s weddding is awesome and she proves that she´s simply the best (oh my God, those are dialogues!).I agree with many of you: what she does, it can´t be done so well by many actresses.And please she´s amazing in so many movies... And a great supporting actress as well, look Confessions of a dangerous mind, she´s great! And that fantastic film of Soderbergh, Full frontal... Julia is one of the hugest stars in the Universe, and that needs to be rewarded.

Derek said...

While Björk gets my vote this year, I can't at all begrudge the Academy for awarding a huge star for what is a truly magnificent performance (Roberts would have been my winner in several other years; Björk's work in Dancer in the Dark is nothing short of miraculous).

Also, it took me awhile to warm up to her, but when you I looked back, I do think Roberts is a great actress. While her performance in Steel Magnolias leaves a bit to be desired, her command of My Best Friend's Wedding is truly something to behold, and worthy of a nomination. To me, that's one of the finest rom-com performances, and a marker of her reign in the 90s.

And Erin Brockovich isn't even her best performance. I will never understand how Closer came and went, accolades pouring onto costars Clive Owen and Natalie Portman (both also deserving), and not even a peep about Roberts' extraordinary transformation, even in the reviews (forget awards)! Her work in Closer is, like, Björk's in DITD, miraculous. For someone like JULIA ROBERTS to completely shed JULIA ROBERTS to take on a role so out of character is brave in and of itself, but the performance is absolutely extraordinary and, for my money, the best in that film and of her career. Watch especially how her face swells up and she turns red during her confession to Owen about her affair. It's a look I've never seen on Roberts before, and it works so well it's scary. Bravo.

DN said...

I agree with Derek, her work in Closer is simply stunning. I couldn´t believe that America´s bride could say those things too! OMG! She´s human! And I really love her in Stepmom. She´s the best, simply the best, I´ve heard that Tina dedicated her song to her...

And please, if you find an actress who enjoys her characters more than she does, let me know. And you can´t say Meryl, because Meryl enjoys being herself doing characters. And I love her. I don´t know, maybe Julia is thinking of the aomunt of money she´s making, but it really works, she makes us enjoying so much as if we were making all that money too. Love you, Julia!!!

Jon said...

I agree that was a great write up on a wonderful scene. I personally would have given the Oscar to Linney or Burstyn, but I do believe Roberts proved she could act and then some with this role.

Su li-zhen (a.k.a Mrs. Chan) said...

People says her career over after 90s I think her last role choices are better than her past.She is absolutely great in Closer very good in Cww.
But Valentine's Day? Julia honey come back to nichols arm!

dennis said...

thank you for this post. i think julia's erin brockovich performance never gets enough love. it's like one of those performances that sweep the awards for the year yet remains thought of as some kind of injustice when julia really deserved the award. she carried the movie. she was front and center. the movie was never boring without her. this monologue is just so sad and so beautiful, the dialogue she says before the video starts is also very touching. julia was totally haunting in closer and gives one of the best romantic comedy performances in my bestfriend's wedding. in so many roles since her debut in steel magnolias, she has given the audience what they want and while revealing facets of her skill, combining melancholy and charm. she is a moviestar first but she is also a very capable actress.

miguelc3891 said...

thank you dennis for mentioning that she pretty much swept all the awards that season, even 3 of the 5 major critics awards. so i dont really get why the hate. they are acting like sharon stone won an oscar for CASINO (she only won a golden globe, but the fact that any group would prefer that sad attempt to act of a performance over Susan Sarandon in DEAD MAN WALKING or Meryl Streep in BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY is a travesty.)

and you are right she was front and center in the movie, there was no scene in the movie without her.

n thanks to the last few bloggers who mentioned MY BEST FRIEND'S WEDDING. It just really showcased her fantastic comic timing, plus her strength and what everyone loved about her from the beginning n something she hasn't really shown much lately- her vulnerability through those teary brown eyes. another one is NOTTING HILL. I can't even think of any actresses lately that has commanded a romantic comedy since her reign in romantic comedies.

antonio said...

for DEREK: this is the first 2 paragraphs of Ken Tucker of New York Magazine's review of Closer. n it was all about Julia Roberts.

The first time Jude Law’s Dan kisses Julia Roberts’s Anna in Closer, Roberts moves into their clinch with her eyes alert, as though searching her partner’s face for a desire equal to her character’s own. When the kiss is completed, Roberts pulls back and her eyes flutter once and glaze over just a little. In a few silent seconds, she’s conveyed Anna’s intense longing for a passion she’d all but given up on finding, and she’s almost literally stunned.

This is great movie-star acting, which I intend as a high compliment. For a celebrity as familiar as Roberts, it’s exceedingly difficult to surprise an audience, but I’ll bet you’re going to come away from Closer feeling you’ve seen sides of her talent she’s never been given the opportunity to reveal before now. Playing a shrewd, jaded photographer—the sort of artist who needs to use people as objects in her portraits and who turns herself off to them as people as well—Roberts denies us the sparkly glances and the endearing hoot of a laugh that have made her so winning in the past. As part of a vicious love quartet, she gives a ruthlessly spare performance that will rip at your heart if you’re willing to let her in there.

loved that movie!

Bailey said...

I think the problem was not so much that Julia Roberts, but that she won in 2000. There really were some amazing performances that year. I never quite realized Julia won over EllB in RFAD! And yes, Bjork.

The thing is, Julia did deserve an Oscar...just not against some of those performances. It was an outrageous but nuanced part, it carried the movie, and it allowed her to be a movie star and an actress at the same time. She was fun, at the top of her game, And I'm sure most voters thought "When is she realistically ever going to have another opportunity to get one of these things?"

It's too bad Erin Brockovich wasn't released in 2001. Jennifer Connelly would've been toast.

Urey said...

Awesome Julia write-up. That pretty much sums up everything I love about her in general and about "Erin Brockovich" specifically. This is one of my favorite Oscar wins! Bravo, Jose!

Glenn Dunks said...

Bailey, 2001 was Halle Berry. Can you imagine the things Roberts would be called if she'd beaten Halle Berry! She'd be a racist out to hinder the African American woman or some other crazy hyperbole.

RP said...

Jennifer Connelly won supporting actress, so I don't know how Julia would have crashed the party with that win in another year.

Agustin said...

I still can't believe that man is Aaron Eckhart