In a recent article published through Variety, David S. Cohen recounts a story told to him by a film editor. He was frustrated with the dailies, lamenting that the leading actress wasn’t giving him much of a performance. In the end, however, she won the Oscar for the part.
Speculate away on who that might be, but the anecdote highlights a truth that many movie lovers often ignore. In film, we tend to give all the credit to the actors in crafting their role as if they were on the stage. Yet in this medium, an editor is every bit as crucial in getting their character across to an audience.
If you have any doubts about this, I recommend you check out “Gloria” and see how film editors can create the most memorable moments of a movie by the shot of an actor they choose, where they position it in the story, and how long they choose to hold it. The inserts of leading lady Paulina García are more interesting than any acting she ever does or any storytelling that writer/director Sebastián Lelio ever attempts.
I’ll give Lelio credit for trying to explore a subject that isn’t particularly commercial, that of a 58-year-old woman’s love life. (As Tina Fey quipped at the Golden Globes, “Meryl Streep, so brilliant in ‘August: Osage County,’ proving that there are still great parts in Hollywood for Meryl Streeps over 60.”) Furthermore, he does it with all the candor towards sexuality and nudity that makes Lena Dunham’s “Girls” such a lightning rod for controversy.
Unfortunately, García’s Gloria just isn’t a very interesting or complex character to follow. The film is further hampered by an unclear and vague romantic conflict at its core. Though Lelio gives the film a fun ending, the journey there is rather dreary and insipid. García’s performance isn’t much to impress on the way, either.
Save, of course, the occasional shot of her hungover head in a purse or lying back on a couch in anguish. But saying that’s great acting is a stretch. Your kid can scribble lines on a page, but you wouldn’t hang it next to Jackson Pollock, would you? Intent separates artists from average joes, and editors can manufacture that in place of an actor if need be. C /