Lauren Bacall in THE MIRROR HAS TWO FACES (1996) -- Supporting Actress Sundays

There's an embarassing story that StinkyLulu must tell (before Criticlasm / Reddish68 tells it on Lulu): At the time of the 1996 Academy Awards, Lulu was stuck in a movie-going lull. Didn't see much, didn't want to see much. And when it came time for the Oscar broadcast, StinkyLulu wore as a badge of pride the fact that Lulu had seen few nominated films. That, of course, did not stop Lulu from having wildly impassioned opinions about who should win. Which -- for Supporting Actress -- StinkyLulu was adamant that Lauren Bacall should win for her work as...

...Hannah Morgan in Barbra Streisand's The Mirror Has Two Faces, this week's featured Supporting Actress Sunday performance.

Lulu hadn't seen the movie, o'course. Just willing to opine promiscuously about it. Indeed, Lulu was "somewhat" livid when that Juliette Bin-who? person snagged the trophy. (As best as Lulu can recall, the line of reasoning was something like -- Bacall's never won, Supporting is as much a cumulative category as a performance-specific category, her many performances trump any individual, blahblahblah, call it the Palance/Ameche effect...)

It's not that Bacall's awful. Not entirely. She might just be the best thing about this movie. But -- like everyone in this misguided, utterly implausible & criminally bland pseudo-Cinderella story -- she's just entirely underwhelming (& completely overshadowed by an impossibly annoying central character).

Bacall plays Hannah Morgan, the imperious former beauty who "has raised two daughters and buried a husband" & who now finds herself (and her life) on a curious holding pattern. Hannah and her elder duckling daughter, Rose (Streisand who also directed who also co-wrote who also...well you get the picture), live in a shockingly well-appointed Upper West Side apartment. There, Hannah simultaneously indulges & antagonizes each of Rose's many neuroses. Superficially, Hannah's an interesting polyglot of several stock characters: NY Jewish Mother + Fading Beauty + Monster Mother... The problem is that neither the film nor Bacall develops Hannah as a multi-faceted being. Bacall's performance becomes an accumulation of (occasionally great) line readings, delivered via that signature ashtray of a voice (& with all the emotional clarity of a FancyFeast commercial). It's "Hannah & Her Three Personalities" rather than a palpably grounded force of misguided maternal nature (ala Gladys Cooper).

Indeed, the performance -- rather than highlighting the unacknowledged genius of Bacall's acting -- underscores how much Bacall coasts on charisma & persona. Most unfortunately, Streisand seems to revel in this aspect of Bacall's acting (in contrast to -- say -- Von Trier, who toys with & sometimes exploits it). It's too bad, really. In the hands of a different director, this might well have been the great performance Lulu (on that high horsey back in '96) imagined it to be. But as it is, even Bacall's nomination becomes an odd miscarriage of Oscar justice, especially considering how rich 1996 was in the way of potential nominees in this category.

Apologies for the photo-problems. Blogger's having "issues" again.
VOTE HERE - VOTE NOW (for July's Supporting Actress Sundays)

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