Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Olivia Williams, The Ghost Actress

I was late to the party on The Ghost Writer but as with any good film, the party is still raging once you get there. It's already one of my favorites of 2010. But back in March I should have been out there championing it as a clever, well executed thriller (if that's the genre you'd like to define it as).  I think it was Pierce Brosnan who kept me away. Since when does he make good movies? And since when is he good in them?

Brosnan is in deep doo-doo in The Ghost Writer. Cattrall and Williams are
out-of-focus
behind him. Which is just how both their characters like it, thank you.

Finally, it was you (yes you!) that convinced me to see it. It was praised enough in comment threads to make me think I'd missed out... particularly in regards to Olivia Williams. She's an actress I'd never thought much about until the past few years and now, it's getting kind of hard to deny her her due.

I wrote up her terrific work in my "Best in Show" column for Tribeca Film. She really is something (in general and here in particular). She's such a sticky actress; she haunts.

24 comments:

Simon said...

She was pretty amazing in Dollhouse, and at first I thought she was playing the same character in TGW. But no, I'd argue that was her career best.

Drew said...

I would like Olivia Williams and Michelle Forbes to get together and have a baby. A melding of two of the most intense and brutally watchable actresses in the world, probably resulting in either the second coming or the end of the world.

Drew said...

And also, I completely agree with what you wrote on her in Dollhouse (The Ghost Writer too, but Dollhouse particularly). Towards the end of Dollhouse she felt like the protagonist, and she was so electric to watch. She stakes a claim in the pantheon of Great Joss Characters.

NATHANIEL R said...

Drew -- wait, don't those things go hand in hand ;) second coming/end of world.

Anonymous said...

It's strange but months and months later, I still think about The Ghost Writer. This is a movie that doesn't aim to be "serious" filmmaking, but in the very excellence of the frame by frame work, it should be remembered and celebrated. I can't shake moments and moods and characters...and isn't that what great moviemaking should do?

Filme Online Gratis said...

I liked the way she played in Dollhouse . I`ll gonna watch this movie and I`ll write more after

FilmDr said...

And what of Olivia Williams' work in Rushmore? I think of her as one of the best.

Volvagia said...

Personally: Best movie so far in 2010. Glad I saw it on DVD. A-. I'd personally go for Eli Wallach's sly and surprisingly subtle work as best in show, especially considering he's most famous for portraying The Ugly.

Burning Reels said...

I'm enamoured with it like some - par Williams, the casting seemed a little off but that ending really rescued a grade - it must be in strong contention to make the FB best ending nominations! B/B-

Robert Hamer said...

What did you think of Brosnan in the film? I know Nick was a huge fan...

Sean D said...

I loved this performance too Nathaniel. Williams' is probably the most solid aspect of that film. It's sad though, it's hard for me to watch a film with such a mixed cast. I thought Williams was brilliant, and I enjoyed Brosnan, but thought both Catrall and McGregor were horrendous.

Volvagia said...

More horrendous than McGregor in The Men Who Stare at Goats? Saw it with my mom. Clooney was great. McGregor, though, was a trainwreck. No character. No idea what he was doing. An audience surrogate there too, but supposedly of the "blatantly sympathetic" variety. In The Ghost Writer, he was playing the other kind of good audience surrogate: a ghost of a man, someone no one would ever miss if they died. See also: Videogames.

NATHANIEL R said...

Sean D -- well Ewan's character is kind of a blank cypher which is i think the point, so there wasn't a lot for him to contribute. I'm so ready for him to get a great role again. It's been forever.

Anonymous said...

How was Kim Cattrall?

NATHANIEL R said...

I vacillated on her. I kind of enjoyed seeing her doing something so different than Samantha ... but i felt the accent was sort of in flux the whole time (i understand she is british though... born there at least?)

john said...

Did you guys know that Olivia was actually the last minute replacement for Tilda Swinton in the role.

Seeking Amy said...

Pierce Brosnan was the best part for me, I've never seen him have such a performance with such magnetism and gravitas. I'd like to see him get a few notices at the end of the year.

Also, I know some people are pretty mixed on the last 5 minutes or so, but I must say, that the hand to hand passing was utterly delicious.

Burning Reels said...

*wasn't enamoured

McGregor frustrates me, as he has clear natural acting ability but in recent years has wasted it on too many empty roles/films - The Island, Miss Potter, Deception, Angels & Demons...and whilst I'd agree his Ghost Writer role was abit of a blank cypher, he seems to have lost that bit of edge, which could of made this performance more haunting.

I'd agree that it was nice to see Cattrall doing something different but hers and Brosnan's accents were terrible, though at least the Brosnan role had a little more dimension.

NATHANIEL R said...

John -- i didn't know. but i'm glad Olivia got it since Tilda gets plenty of good roles.

seeking amy -- yeah that note? I basically orgasmed. love the last 5 minutes or so so much.

Ben said...

Olivia Williams is fantastic, both here and elsewhere. I wonder if anyone saw her in the BBC drama Miss Austen Regrets, where she played Jane Austen during the last years of her life. I'm a sucker for BBC period dramas, but it really was one of the most complicated and multi-faceted performances I've ever seen on TV. And for those that enjoy Austen's books (again, big fan), she completely nails everything you'd expect the author to be.

kin said...

Olivia Williams was super underrated for The Sixth Sense. Her performance really holds up in repeat viewing, considering how pivotal her role is.

Mirko said...

I'm sorry I realized so late how good an actress Olivia Williams is! that's quite strange since she was in several awesome or popular flicks such as RUSHMORE and THE SIXTH SENSE

her overlooked perf in AN EDUCATION and her not enough acclaimed so far perf in THE GHOST WRITER changed everything (I'm sorry I haven't watched DOLLHOUSE yet...but I hope I could do it soon)

and, yes, THE GHOST WRITER is an awesome movie who mustn't finishe unoticed during awards season!

Volvagia said...

Brosnan's occasional accent fluxing was at least natural. Hear me out: At the times when his accent shifted more Irish/Scottish, the character was losing control, stressed, angry. Thus: If you heard his accent shift, it was because you were SUPPOSED TO. HIS DISGUISE IS CRACKING.

Janice said...

@Ben - I haven't seen her in that, although I did recently see her play a younger Agatha Christie in a BBC drama (on DVD). Being of fan of Ms Williams I thought she definitely made the character more interesting than these sorts of things usually allow, even with the bio cliches. I do think the filmmakers tried to find ways to get around the worst cliches to freshen things up.

I wonder why she gets cast as writers (Austin, Christie) or repressed schoolteachers (An Education, Mumford), so I'll likely seek this out. I think she deserves better roles than she's been getting and I've love to see a director give her a really juicy lead film role.