Throughout the year, we have been exposed to some very fine acting along with some extremely horrid overacting. The actor who gave the best performance throughout the films that we have viewed over this semester is, almost without a doubt, Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire, directed in 1951 by Elia Kazan and based on Tennessee Williams' 1947 play. And on the opposite end of the spectrum, the actress whose acting was so over-the-top that it was not even funny in a bad way was Jane Fonda as Nora in Joseph's Losey's 1973 version of Henrik Ibsen's 1879 A Doll's House.
Marlon Brando has become a household name over the years for his roles in films such as The Godfather, directed by Francis Ford Coppola in 1972] and the original Richard Donner version of Superman (1978). What made Brando so appealing in Streetcar was that it showed that he clearly enjoyed playing the character that he was given causing the audience to also enjoy his presence. Without Brando, A Streetcar Named Desire would have been a decent enough film, but it was his acting that made it the classic that it is today. He even made it seem believable that a woman would return to him after he had verbally abused her. That simply takes talent.
Jane Fonda-these are two words in the English language that simply should not go together. Jane Fonda took A Doll's House and pretty much made it a vehicle movie to show off her talents (or lack thereof). It almost seemed as if she did not really even enjoy playing her character. Now, an acting job can be bad and still enjoyable if the actor had fun while playing the character, and it shows (quite like Bruce Campbell in The Evil Dead, directed in 1981 by Sam Raimi, or pretty much any other film he is the star of). Fonda was simply annoying and a nuisance to listen to. The other version of A Doll's House, directed in 1973 by Patrick Garland, was better simply because the actors were at least trying. Jane Fonda knew that people would view a movie with her in it because she was Jane Fonda, so she simply did not put much effort into her role, unlike Claire Bloom in the other movie. Anthony Hopkins, on the other hand, did a fairly decent job and held the other version of the film together. He was not totally in the zone for his part as he was for Hannibal Lector in Silence of the Lambs, directed in 1991 by Johanthan Demme; but the film showed us an up and coming actor that would one day be great.
The best actor that I have viewed outside of class has been Robin Williams. Now, that may seem like a strange person to list when thinking of the best actors and actresses in film, but if you ever view the film Good Morning, Vietnam, directed in 1987 by Barry Levinson, it is hard to deny that he has talent. In that film, he was able to use it as both the vehicle movie to show off his comedic talents while at the same time portray a character with some real problems. Robin Williams has not done a film recently that balances comedic and dramatic characters in many years. Patch Adams, directed in 1998 by Tom Shadyac, was decent in allowing him to portray a character that had many emotional problems that still allowed him to show off his comedic talents, but it lingered a bit too much in the last half of the film. Robin Williams is the kind of character actor that many wish they could be. He is a great actor, but he just does not receive many roles that are very good at showcasing this talent.
All in all, Marlon Brando was simply the best actor that we have seen during this semester in class. He got into his character's mind and gave a performance that is still remembered to this day (his scream of Stella's name is one of the most memorable moments of cinematic history for crying out loud). While he did an amazing job, Jane Fonda was simply the female version of Pauley Shore of her generation. She was once an enjoyable icon whose welcome wore thin until people started to outright despise her. If she would have tried to act decently, the film would have at least been a bit more enjoyable. But, as it stands, I rank her version of A Doll's House just a bit lower than Pauley Shore's "classic" Bio-Dome, directed in 1996 by Jason Bloom.