Does anyone else like it when actors overact or directors make their films overly dramatic? Some movies don’t get it right, and these are usually bad blockbusters anyway, but some directors are great at it.
Like the scene in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me when Laura shouts “I LOVE YOU JAMES!!!” before he speeds off on his motorcycle? That whole movie is so ultra-dramatic and loud, but I love it.
I saw Shutter Island last night and it made me realize how great overly dramatic films can be when done right. I mean look at older films, like Sunset Boulevard, the intensity of scenes are played up so much (for example the “I’m ready for my close-up” scene or pretty much any scene with Norma Desmond), but it just makes the film that much better.
This is like politicians using humor. If it works, the results are phenomenal, but if it doesn’t, you’re up shit’s creek. The Shining is a perfect example of overacting used to great effect. You would not want a subtle and nuanced version of Pink Floyd The Wall. Unfortunately, from Crash to the Star Wars prequels, it doesn’t work more often than it does.
Yes! Shelley Duvall was so great in The Shining, I can’t believe she got a Razzie for her role.
Oh, I dunno. Broadway director Michael Shurtleff once asked rhetorically, in his book AUDITION: “Whoever gave melodrama a bad name?”
There are countless examples of movies and TV where the acting is wa-a-y-y over-the-top, yet, for reasons of our own, we eat it up with a spoon.
My theory is: one of the purposes of drama is TO EXPRESS THE EMOTIONS WE ARE NOT ALLOWED TO EXPRESS IN OUR EVERYDAY, “POLITE” SOCIETY.
If you walked down Main Street crying openly, or swearing, or shouting, laughing and skipping with glee, or if you engaged someone in a fistfight, or if you REALLY told your boss what you think of him, or if you dropped your trousers and had sex with someone on the street… Or what if you actually murdered someone you disliked? What if, MGM-style, we burst into song and did an elaborate tap and ballet down the middle of Main Street? Did a Bollywood dance in a train station? Why, you’d probably either be arrested, reported to the police, or sent to a psychiatric facility. Or at the VERY least, you would displease, shock, amuse and annoy your fellow citizens. Most of us humans cannot afford the very real consequences of “acting out” our emotions in everyday society.
Is that sad? Perhaps. Maybe a little.
So—— at a certain pain to our very souls, our animal organisms—— we repress those emotions. Stuff ‘em up. Hide ’em. Dissemble them. It’s the price we pay for being modern “civilized” social human creatures.
YET!!! And this is big YET——-
In drama, characters CAN indulge and act upon those selfsame emotional impulses. It’s part of our unwritten, unspoken “dramatic agreement” we viewers agree to with our entertainment. Dramatic characters can actually verbalize, in no uncertain terms, the words WE dare not speak in our real lives. And each of us here, as film-lovers, knows how delicious it is to vicariously imagine what it would be like…. if we could express our emotions freely, absolutely freely…. even nakedly in public.
Now THERE’S the purpose of drama: to allow us to deeply feel and vicariously live out the impulses which we ordinarily repress.
This is why I wonder if we can ever truly consider ANY performance in a fictional film “over-acted”. By God, overacting is what we viewers want in a film character…. We crave it.
In MOMMIE DEAREST, when Dunaway is chopping down her orange tree at midnight, or when she is strangling Christina on the floor, there’s a part of us inside that’s thinking, “You’re goddam right! Do it! That’s how I’m feeling, and that’s what I’d do in the same situation!” (Would you, though?)
In IMITATION OF LIFE, Lana Turner goes batshit-crazy at her maid’s bedside as she lies dying. Sadly, in real life, we humans might FEEL that tremendous angst at a loved one’s dying…. but not many of us would actually act it out in grand scale, for all to see. We don’t want to appear out-of-control; we don’t want to frighten children or others with our emotionality.
But we leave the cinema—- even the campy, overacted, melodramatic cinema—— feeling lighter, cleansed somehow. (Socrates spoke of the purging of hubris as being a purpose of tragedy.)
Film is excellent psychotherapy. It may actually be a vital tool in keeping us (our society) sane.
I love the movie THE HOUSEMAID (from Korea, available on this very website to view). It points out, in an extremely entertaining way, the difference between how life FEELS TO US ON THE INSIDE……. and the much more prosaic way life actually unfolds in “real” life…
i want the truth
U CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH :O(
I just watched The Red Shoes again, and that film has a lot of overacting, perpetrated especially by Leonide Massine, the brilliant dancer and choreographer. But it adds to the strange unreality of the backstage story.
Mystic River was so melodramatic and overacted (Sean Penn) that I could only watch about 20 mins. of it. It didn’t help that Clint Eastwood directed it. He is such a formulaic, archaic director and his films make me wince.
Try the grandmothers of the overacted and overdramatic: Crawford and Davis in …Baby Jane.