Monday, January 11, 2010

Dave on Kate as "Iris"

It's "Kate Winslet Day" Pass it on.

Iris doesn't really get mentioned much any more - I expect it'll be remembered in the footnotes of cinema for Jim Broadbent's Oscar win. But it also brought Kate Winslet her third Oscar nomination - her first since Titanic. It's probably the film that really made it clear that she would be one of the pre-eminent actresses of the 2000s. And it remains one of her finest, most overlooked performances.

The film intercuts between the deteriorating Iris Murdoch (Dame Judi Dench) and her husband's memories of her as a vibrant young intellectual who he fell in love with. Winslet moves between the effervescent passion with which Iris delivers all her philosophical reflections and her guarded, cautious approach to her actual life and work. But it'd be easy for Winslet to stick to simplistic characteristics as they are essentially all the film requires of her - it's John's memories, of course, and they could be played as uncomplicated remembrances. But Winslet gives the edge of slight condescension, hidden inadequacy, deep sensuality - and all the other things we see reflected in Dench's performance.

My main memory of the film is Winslet's squeals rising over the fade out of the previous scene where Iris has recieved the news about her condition - and then her younger self is carefreely spinning down a country road on a bicycle, a sad counterpoint to the older Iris' acceptance that her career, and her life, are ending. Or matching John's panic as he searches for Iris with more cycling and a yelled out discussion of Proteus. But as for her Oscar clip, that was probably either her soft, warm singing, or her confession of past lovers, delivered with a mix of defiance and tentative sadness. "You know more about me than anyone on earth... you are my world." It epitomizes what the film is about - what is, ultimately, a complex but dedicated love affair. And Kate delivers it beautifully.

11 comments:

Jose said...

She truly was a breath of fresh air in this one. I didn't like how people diminished this performance to yet another of her "free spirits" because truth is it goes beyond that.
You could see her become Judi Dench's eventual Iris.
Kate was robbed of the Oscar that year!

mrripley said...

Agreed an overlooked gem and that is the thing with kate she more times than not knocks it out of the park,only her perfs in the life of david gale and all the kings men leave me cold,she is so full of life in this,the deterioration in the older iris is more poignant,without kate as the young joyful iris denchs older iris does not have the impact, we needed to see what was lost for john and for iris.

my 01 runner up after tomei and the perfect clip for oscar,i rember nat liking this performance.

Chris Na Taraja said...

I'm not a big Kate fan, but I saw SPOTLESS and LITTLE CHILDREN around the same time and though, oh yeah, she's quite good.

Robert Hamer said...

An excellent and terribly underrated performance from her. It surprises me, actually, that this site is the only place where it's celebrated. I can definitely see a powerful argument for her to have deserved it in '01, even if my personal choice would've been the unnominated Gwyneth Paltrow.

Winslet said...

Winslet should've won that supporting Oscar, but instead she won in 2009 over far superior performances by Sally Hawkins, Melissa Leo and the great Kristin Scott Thomas.
Connelly was lead and not that good. Dame Maggie Smith was totally Oscar-worthy, but did she really needed that 3rd Oscar win?
Thank God Dame Helen Mirren lost since a supporting Oscar back then wouldn't boost her career as a lead one in 2006.

NATHANIEL R said...

I am so glad you covered this one Dave. It's one of my favorite of her performances too (i gave it the gold medal that year. Not sure if that'd still stand ... i sometimes think now that Helen Mirren deserved the gold) but you're right that no one talks about it.

i think that has more to do with the film being minor than with Kate's work. Major.

Bryan said...

You're right, mrripley: seeing the vibrance of Kate makes Judi's descent that much more tragic. And those two actresses played the same character so believably.

Terrence said...

Great "Iris" shout-out! That performance seems really forgotten in Kate Winslet's closet of great performances. I'm glad it was mentioned here. But nothing on Clementine from anyone? That's a surprise.

jc valencia said...

slightly off-topic, i would have taken it better had dame judi won over nicole instead of... we all know who.

kate was wonderful in iris, too by the way

Mags said...

This is one of my "best film that I cannot bear to watch again" nominees. Just beautiful performances all around, making the story of a life that is at once magnificent and ultimately devastating. When I hear that they were going to make a movie of "Elegy for Iris" I could not wrap my head around it, but what a beautiful movie and a great Kate performance. So glad that Jim Broadbent got the Oscar for this one.

Ian said...

Hugh Bonneville and Jim Broadbent look so amazingly alike it's ridiculous. I hope that the casting director to "Iris" received a huge bonus or something for his/her efforts there.