Helena Bonham Carter slights her own performance

Posted by · 11:28 am · January 10th, 2011

In last week’s episode of Oscar Talk, one reader cheekily asked Anne and Kris which probable nominee they would most like to see out of the running. After much hemming and hawing, Anne landed upon Melissa Leo, while Kris stumped for (or against, rather) Annette Bening.

While I’d co-sign neither of those choices, it’s just as well Kris didn’t choose that evening to cold-call me on the podcast, since I could easily have whined for hours on end about other contenders — and Helena Bonham Carter, widely seen as a shoo-in for her turn as the eventual Queen Mother in “The King’s Speech,” would have topped the list.

An inoffensive wallpaper performance to some, it struck me as distractingly twitchy, mannered work against the crisp, unfussy teamwork of leads Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush.

That Carter, a wonderful actress, has given far more striking performances that registered not a flicker of awards buzz makes her coast through the precursors this year all the more vexing to me. But it’s comforting to know that I’m not the only one scratching my head. In this Variety piece on the British actors in the Oscar race (one that curiously lumps Geoffrey Rush in with the limeys), the actress herself seems to think the awards attention is misplaced:

I thought it was a boys’ film … Sometimes you get nominated for the wrong things. I’m not knocking it, because I want the good roles, so if it helps me get another really good part, that’s great. For that moment, when you’re nominated, you get offered parts you wouldn’t otherwise be offered. After ‘Wings of a Dove’ [sic], I got ‘Fight Club.’ When you are up for awards, they remember you’re still alive.

True words, all of them. Carter at least can take comfort in the fact that she has been nominated for her best screen work, as the cool sexual strategist of “The Wings of the Dove” — unlike, say, a Christopher Plummer, whose long Oscar drought ended last year with a nod for distinctly sub-par work. And she’s right that, when push comes to shove, a nomination means more in the long term than it does in the weeks leading up to Oscar night: if recognition for “The King’s Speech” means another “Fight Club” is around the corner for the actress, I guess I’ll make my peace with it.

Anyway, nice to see an actor so indifferent to the politics of the season that she doesn’t mind taking her own campaign down a peg. Can we still be friends, Helena?

[Photo: The Weinstein Company]

→ 39 Comments Tags: , , , , , | Filed in: Daily

39 responses so far

  • 1 1-10-2011 at 11:37 am

    BrianA said...

    Helena Bonham Carter should have won in ’98 for Wings of the Dove. I know most people say Dame Judi Dench should have taken it for Mrs. Brown instead of Helen Hunt for As Good As It Gets, but I was always rooting for Helena. She gave a layered, complex performance, at time villainous, at times sympathetic. Beautiful work!

  • 2 1-10-2011 at 11:37 am

    Patriotsfan said...

    I really liked her performance in The King’s Speech and I usually don’t like Helena Bonham Carter very much (especially in Alice in Wonderland). I thought she came across as someone sincerely concerned for her husband, which is exactly what I think the film needed, so I hope she does receive a nomination.

  • 3 1-10-2011 at 11:44 am

    Dooby said...

    Not one critic group recognises her in Sweeny Todd yet they do for THIS?
    Totally agree with you Guy. I just would hate to see her chosen instead of Mila Kunis or Jackie Weaver.

    1998? Pam Grier = Best Actress

  • 4 1-10-2011 at 11:49 am

    ChrisG said...

    Appreciate Bonham Carters honesty, but i haven’t seen TKS, yet.
    So Guy, which other probable nominee would you like to see out of the race? ;)

  • 5 1-10-2011 at 11:50 am

    Paul Outlaw said...

    Couldn’t disagree with you more on this, Guy. And HBC is always self-deprecating about her work, so this quote comes as no suprise.

  • 6 1-10-2011 at 11:51 am

    tdr said...

    Having not seen The King’s Speech, but having seen all other contenders in the Supp Actress category I say this: if she’s not at her best (as it doesn’t seem to be the case), she should not ride on the coat-tails of her movie to get in, instead of Weaver or Kunis. Sorry. I just don’t think that in a year with many great performances across all categories someone should sneak in because of their movie and not their performance.

  • 7 1-10-2011 at 12:04 pm

    Alex in Movieland said...


    seriously now, that is exactly what Mila Kunis IS doing. she’s riding it just because of the buzz and the cool factor around Black Swan! could that performance stand on its own in any way? Damn, no. I’m annoyed by the fact that Oscar is handing over Oscar noms just because of pretty faces…

  • 8 1-10-2011 at 12:06 pm

    Alex in Movieland said...


    Christopher Plummer was quite great in The Last Station; best performance in that dull film. And what did you expect him to get nominated for, previously? Sound of Music? :D

    yes, yes, maybe The Insider, but that category was too crowded anyway!
    even better ones got snubbed then (hint: Malkovich Malkovich Malkovich)

  • 9 1-10-2011 at 12:15 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    Plummer getting snubbed in a category that found room for Michaels Clarke Duncan (gah) and Caine (double gah) is not excusable.

  • 10 1-10-2011 at 12:17 pm

    Speaking English said...

    Plummer was wonderful in “The Last Station.” So is Bonham Carter in “King’s Speech.” So is Duncan in “The Green Mile.”


  • 11 1-10-2011 at 12:34 pm

    Robert Hamer said...

    I’m sorry, Speaking, was that supposed to be funny?

  • 12 1-10-2011 at 12:34 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    ChrisG: Several. “127 Hours,” Tom Hooper, Robert Duvall, the screenplay of “Inception,” every single technical nod for “Alice in Wonderland”…

  • 13 1-10-2011 at 12:38 pm

    tdr said...

    @ Alex,
    I DO agree with you and having NOT seen The King’s Speech, I can’t judge Bonham-Carter’s performance. After I see it, I might think it should be in the top 5.
    Having said that I’ve read much more reviews praising Kunis than I’ve seen about Bonham-Carter- most of them single out Firth and Rush.
    In any case I hope that Weaver gets in. And it’s in that context that I say that if the performance is not great it shouldn’t be nominated. Because a great one by someone who’s an unkown would be replaced by a not so great from someone more famous, whether that is Kunis or Bonham-Carter or whoever.

  • 14 1-10-2011 at 12:41 pm

    Bryan said...

    I’ll actually agree with your mention of the technical aspects of Alice in Wonderland. To me they were very off-putting and gaudy, doing nothing to pull me in or reinforce what kind of world this is supposed to be, instead saying, “hey, it’s T-Burt, and it’s Alice, so it has to be crazy!” That’s not saying very much.

  • 15 1-10-2011 at 12:42 pm

    AdamL said...

    Agree with those that called it unoffensive but then since when did unoffensive get Oscar noms? (sit down Snadra Bullock, no-one cares.)

  • 16 1-10-2011 at 12:43 pm

    Maxim said...

    I know this is offtopic but I couldn’t resist:

    Is Kunis famous? I mean, sure, most of us know who she is but I find it amusing how she is being presented as someone who could have potential gain on someone due to her fame.

    Is it because she’s been around for so long on TV that she’s perceived as someone famous?

  • 17 1-10-2011 at 12:54 pm

    tdr said...

    @ Maxim,
    In my opinion in the context of the conteders for a nomination yes, she is. Compared to Jackie Weaver? Yes, she is more famous. She is in one of the most popular movies of the year. She has those lesbian scenes with Portman, which I guess counts. Also she’s been out there promoting the movie. And she’s been for a long time on TV.

  • 18 1-10-2011 at 12:59 pm

    Fitz said...

    I thought I was the only thinking maybe Duvall could sit by the wayside while other leading actors are nominated.

    Ignoring Gosling, Giamatti, or even Jim Carrey seems like a shame considering this looks like a retrospective nod for Mr. Duvall.

  • 19 1-10-2011 at 1:27 pm

    Speaking English said...

    Robert Hamer, no, it is not supposed to be funny.

  • 20 1-10-2011 at 2:19 pm

    Patryk said...

    1) Nominate Hailee Steinfeld in Leading.
    2) Forget Bonham-Carter.
    3) Nominate Barbara Hershey, Amy Adams, Mila Kuns, Jacki Weaver and Olivia Williams.

  • 21 1-10-2011 at 2:30 pm

    JJ1 said...

    I thought she gave the perfect “supporting” performance. Win-worthy? Nah. Career win would be nice. And if she’s snubbed, I’d be sad, but not devastated.

  • 22 1-10-2011 at 2:43 pm

    Joe7827 said...

    I really liked Helena in “The King’s Speech” (I’ll specify since she’s also “in the running” for “Alice in Wonderland”). I like performances like hers, which liven up what would otherwise be a dry speech therapy history lesson. She made me smile whenever she was on screen, and I would say that her cheery mood set the tone for the rest of the film.

  • 23 1-10-2011 at 2:57 pm

    john t. said...

    Alex, I concur with you about Christopher Plummer & Mila Kunis. Chris gave a wonderful performance. I don’t know what Guy is talking about ( no offense ) ? Mila doesn’t deserve the kudos she is getting- very one note performance.

    Now, Barbara Hershey’s great acting turn in the “Black Swan”, is worthy of an Oscar nomination. She was always compelling to watch, even in the quieter moments that wasn’t over-exaggerated.

    I found the “King’s Speech” to be too dry and lackluster – more stuffier than the “Masterpiece Theatre” specials ( and I enjoy some of these PBS specials) . And, yes, I wasn’t moved by Helena Bonham-Carter’s performance.

  • 24 1-10-2011 at 3:00 pm

    matsunaga said...

    I agree with Alex regarding Kunis’ performance in Black Swan compared to Carter’s in The King Speech… Amy Adams most likely will take the gold but I felt the vital emotions in Carter’s performance in the TKS with her eyes doing the acting… It’s not that showy performance though worthy of at least a nomination….

  • 25 1-10-2011 at 3:28 pm

    Dooby said...

    I like the way you think Patryk.

  • 26 1-10-2011 at 3:49 pm

    daveylow said...

    I agree you could call her performance mannered but there was nothing “twitchy” about her work at all. This is possibly the un-showiest performance that HBC has ever given.

    I thought she had a small part the first time I saw the film but after watching the movie a second time, she really does a lot with her few scenes and she’s very sympathetic and sly throughout. I don’t think she deserves an award for her performance but I will not be bothered in the least if she is nominated.

    On the other hand, I think Mila Kunis getting mentioned for awards for her performance in Black Swan is ridiculous.

  • 27 1-10-2011 at 4:13 pm

    Bryan said...

    Every actor needs to take notes on Mila Kunis’s line delivery. From “Jesus” to “dankasheeyn” she nails every one. After a second viewing her performance ran ahead of the excellent Barbara Hershey. There’s nothing one-note about it. She slyly plays the “I’m-your-friend-maybe-maybe-not” tone perfectly.

  • 28 1-10-2011 at 4:14 pm

    Bryan said...

    And I liked Helena Bonham Carter in The King’s Speech.

  • 29 1-10-2011 at 5:00 pm

    mikhael said...

    I like it when an actress or an actor can speak wise for themselves about this award situation. Her statement is just so true. If a nod for her in King’s Speech means another “Fight Club” role, why not?

  • 30 1-10-2011 at 5:06 pm

    JR said...

    I loved HBC in TKS! Didn’t find her twitchy; rather very grounding. I’ve loved her ever since Room with a View. Of her less-familiar performance, I highly recommend Margaret’s Museum and, most of all, Live From Baghdad.

    The latter is a fabulous HBO movie about the CNN team that found itself stuck in Baghdad at the beginning of Gulf War I. Really worth seeking out – also has some of Michael Keaton’s best work.

  • 31 1-10-2011 at 5:44 pm

    caleb roth said...

    I am sorry, but I have to say this now: 1998, yes, Pam Grier for Best Actress, absolutely.

  • 32 1-10-2011 at 8:00 pm

    austin111 said...

    Well, I wasn’t bothered by Carter in The King’s Speech. Nice performance. She’s right to say it was a “boy’s film”, though. I think she recognized that if she just stayed in the background and did nothing to stand out, she’d have been singled out as dull and uninteresting. Instead she chose to be a little more lively. I especially liked the way she by-passed Wallis Simpson at the party because she wasn’t the one who should have been greeting guests at the door. TKS was very enjoyable and entertaining throughout.

  • 33 1-10-2011 at 9:02 pm

    JTag said...

    I wouldn’t have a problem with HBC in supporting actress if she was in for Alice in Wonderland; I absolutely adored her performance even though I abhorred the movie. She is pure window dressing in The King’s Speech.

  • 34 1-10-2011 at 11:55 pm

    Aaron said...

    I thought Helena Bonham Carter was good in The King’s Speech but I’m on the fence regarding a nomination for her. Technically, no I don’t think she’s been one of the five best this year, but at the same time I love her to death and I selfishly want her to be offered better roles…

    …but I am all on board for a Mila Kunis nomination. I saw Black Swan again recently and her performance registers even better the second time. It’s amazing to see the polar opposite dynamics between her and Natalie Portman when they share scenes together. I thought Kunis gave a terrific performance.

  • 35 1-11-2011 at 1:10 am

    julian said...

    HBC being in contention has been a mystery to me ever since I saw TKS (enjoyable film, not much more). I mean, Weaver (a terrific turn), Steinfeld, Leo and Adams…those four should be locks! The last spot? Please, AMPAS, make way for the underrated Olivia Williams of The Ghost Writer…!

  • 36 1-11-2011 at 6:25 am

    JJ1 said...

    Speaking of Jacki Weaver ^ …..

    in Animal Kingdom (ugh) – I would say that Weaver is getting most of the credit for actually just being part of a very juicy “role”. We know the “role” is disabolical.

    But what does this woman do other than kiss her sons 2 seconds longer than she should, end her sentences with “sweetheart” or “love”, and stare wide-eyed?

    Her character is the most vivid in the film, for sure. But I didn’t see remarkable acting, at all.

  • 37 1-11-2011 at 6:26 am

    JJ1 said...

    She basically had one or 2 small scenes to get her true intentions across. And they’re good. But nothing nom-worthy to me. Shrugs.

  • 38 1-14-2011 at 6:03 pm

    parker said...

    Note to those stumping for Pam Grier – Wings of the Dove was in the ’97 film year, Jackie Brown was ’98 so they were never in competition.

  • 39 1-14-2011 at 6:14 pm

    Speaking English said...

    That’s wrong, parker. “Jackie Brown” was released in 1997 and was nominated for an Oscar that year.