The Upside and Down to Choosing Characters

     An interesting plot is not the only thing needed to carry a movie along through its duration. The performance of the actors and actresses can make or break a film.

     The actor which grabbed my attention the firmest during this class was Marlon Brando and his version of Stanley from Elia Kazan's 1951 A Streetcar Named Desire, based on Tennessee Williams' 1947 play. Not only did he stay true to the character that was intended in the novel, he also expanded the role to include a comical touch. Brando had the correct firm, no-nonsense persona which was clearly illustrated in the book. The movie portrayed Stanley as a strong man, who occasionally would show his soft side, but never to a point where it weakened the character. The author could not have asked for a more brilliant performance, but he got one anyway.

     Brando took the role of Stanley to another level by the subtle humor he used to break up the intense passion which appeared throughout the film. I do not believe the author of the book intended on having Stanley display such a humorous side, but Brando pulled it off in a distinguished manner. It was much tougher to dislike the movie’s version of Stanley than it was to loathe the book’s character.

     While A Streetcar Named Desire hit a home run by selecting Brando in its feature role, Joseph Losey’s 1973 movie adaptation of Henrik Ibsen's 1879 A Doll’s House hit a pop fly to first base with its selection of Jane Fonda as main character Nora Helmer. Fonda was going through a woman’s rights movement at the time of the movie, and Henrik Ibsen’s, the author of the play, vision of Nora was the victim of Fonda’s beliefs. The character of Nora was done absolutely no justice by Fonda.

     The character of Nora went through many transgressions and pains during the course of the movie and the play. At the end of both stories it is obvious that she had learned a lot about herself and was ready to continue her self-improvement; however, there is one problem I have with Fonda’s performance. There was not any kind of transformation during the movie. Ibsen set up a terrific story which could have showcased a capable actress’s talent. The ingredients were there to make an emotional, wear and tear showing of Nora’s character. Instead of Ibsen’s vision, Fonda played the humble, giddy little play toy of Torvald (David Warner). Then all of a sudden, she flipped the hatred switch on, and Torvald could barely get in a word before Nora decides to leave. There were too big of a void from one emotional state to the other for it to be plausible.

     These two films and the actors and actresses in it were the main reasons A Streetcar Named Desire succeeded and A Doll’s House failed.

Jason Yates

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