Ebert hearts Hawkins

Posted by · 9:38 am · October 30th, 2008

I happened upon this a week late, so apologies for that, but I still think it bears mentioning. It’s no secret that Roger Ebert is probably one of the few critics who means anything to Academy voters. Whether it’s true or not that his backing of such underdog contenders as “Crash” played into their victories, people thinking you wield that kind of influence is an influence in itself.

What I’m saying, in a long-winded fashion, is that when Ebert gets truly excited about a film or a performer, the sun often shines a little brighter on their Oscar campaign. And someone whose publicist must be smiling is Sally Hawkins, a well-liked but comparatively low-profile contender who needs passionate support to come through in a crowded Best Actress race. And, in his glowing four-star review of “Happy-Go-Lucky,” passionate support is precisely what Ebert offers:

Poppy is one of the most difficult roles any actress could be assigned. She must smile and be peppy and optimistic at (almost) all times, and do it naturally and convincingly, as if the sunshine comes from inside. That’s harder than playing Lady Macbeth. Sally Hawkins been in movies before, including Leigh’s “Vera Drake” and Woody Allen’s “Cassandra’s Dream,” but this is her star-making role. She was named best actress at Berlin 2008. I will deliberately employ a cliche: She is a joy to behold.

(It’s) a role very few women could play. Maybe Meryl Streep could sustain that level of merriness, but then what can’t she do? And now I must ask, what can’t Hawkins do? There are countless ways she might have stepped wrong. But she breezes in on her bicycle and engages our deepest sympathy.

That’s heady praise there. He is also deeply impressed by Hawkins’s co-star Eddie Marsan, describing his performance as “spellbinding.” I’m not saying Ebert strikes gold every time, but should he continue to champion Hawkins and the film to such an extent, some voters might just be listening.

→ 9 Comments Tags: , , , , | Filed in: Daily

9 responses so far

  • 1 10-30-2008 at 11:27 am

    Troy said...

    Too bad they didn’t listen to him when he said this: “Either “Being John Malkovich” gets nominated for best picture, or the members of the Academy need portals into their brains.”

  • 2 10-30-2008 at 1:57 pm

    Zan said...

    Ebert is slowly drifting into senility as evidenced by his Lakeview Terrace review and the fact that he had Rendition as one of last year’s top films.

    He still carries sway, but he’s just not as selective as he used to be, which, once upon a time, made him the best around.

  • 3 10-30-2008 at 2:51 pm

    Joel said...

    He’s smarter than most though. It’s true, right? “Space Chimps” notwithstanding…

    And for the record, I agreed with him on “Lakeview Terrace.”

  • 4 10-30-2008 at 3:58 pm

    Lance said...

    Ebert says that this role would be harder to act out than Lady MacBeth. Really? Maybe this is true, but how would he know. I’m sure he didn’t take a poll from any actors and he’s never tried to act out both parts to gain a personal opinion. Ebert has never acted or taught acting so he really shouldn’t be making such bold comments. How could he possibly know which would be harder? Personally, I think I could easily handle a part filled with a lot of smiling and joy – and most people could also because we all fake this emotion more than any other – it’s easy. I would have a lot more difficulty with the dramatic scenes in MacBeth.

    I just think it’s so odd how so many movie reviewers talk about acting as if they are experts and usually they know absolutely nothing about the subject.

    But at the same time – I love Ebert and his show with Roeper taught me how to appreciate the art of film.

  • 5 10-30-2008 at 5:03 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    If you’re going to go that route, Lance, most movie critics also talk about filmmaking without any first-hand experience of the craft. Experience isn’t always essential to appreciation.

    And I agree with him on the difficulty of Hawkins’ role — besides the old adage of “dying is easy, comedy is hard,” there are a lot of notes to play in Poppy. She’s not merely “filled with smiling and joy,” she actively projecting optimism in an effort to divert the tensions around her. When her guard slips, and it’s revealed just how hard she works at her happiness, the payoff is devastating. Have you seen the film?

  • 6 10-30-2008 at 6:17 pm

    Lance said...

    Guy – very good points. I agree that experience isn’t essential to appreciation but he’s going beyond just sharing his level of appreciation of that performance. You can still give a review without making comments that demand some knowledge or experience on the subject. Would a novice on the subject say, those visual effects are harder to do than those that were created in another movie? You can say that you enjoyed the effects, describe your reactions, which ones were your favorite, etc. but if you’re clueless on the subject, would you write down that one person had to work harder on this film than this person had to on another film?

  • 7 10-31-2008 at 7:28 am

    Kokushi said...

    According to Ebert, The Mummy 3 and Happy Go Lucky > Reservoir Dogs and The Usual Suspects, LOL.

    Ebert is still one of my favorites movie critics but wtf with the mummy 3 with better rating.

  • 8 10-31-2008 at 8:01 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    You should never interpret star tatings so literally, Kokushi — I’m sure Ebert uses a sliding scale.

  • 9 10-31-2008 at 8:01 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    * star ratings, not “tatings” ;)