SHIRLEY MacLAINE: STILL KICKIN’ IT!
A few days ago, I was browsing through “On Demand” and happened upon yet another “little” Shirley MacLaine movie. I happen to love MacLaine and so, of course, went right for it.
Once again, we have Shirley in a good, even rather meaty, role for a woman “of a certain age.” In this case, she’s playing Harriet Lauler, a former advertising executive, who is alone at this point in her life. In the opening sequences of the film, which cement not only Harriet’s very controlling and even domineering nature but her very solitary and lonely existence, MacLaine is at her finest. In the last of these opening scenes, Harriet sits at her dining room table, her untouched dinner plate in front of her. She spills a glass of wine and moves to mop up the liquid with the newspaper she has at hand. It is at that point that she notes an obituary for a former acquaintance and is, somehow, spurred into action. Striding into the office of the city’s newspaper editor, she announces that she wants the obituary writer to do her “last word”–which she must approve. From there on out, the film takes a generally predictable path in which the lives of both Harriet and the young writer (Amanda Seyfried) are changed as a result of this unusual partnership. And while the path may be a rather predictable one, and while the overall “message” is somewhat “cluttered,” MacLaine, as always, provides a stellar performance.
There’s something about Shirley MacLaine…her spirit, energy, and “grit”…that seems to prevail, regardless of the make or model of the vehicle she is steering. She’s just that good.
She’s equally as good in two other fairly recent movies available on Netflix. In Wild Oats (2016), she and fellow Oscar-winner Jessica Lange go on the trip of a lifetime when she receives an insurance check for $5 million instead of $50K and is persuaded to just…spend it. The chemistry between these two consummate performers is delicious.
In Elsa & Fred (2014), the chemistry between MacLaine and Christopher Plummer is even more compelling. MacLaine, in fact, is quite radiant in this gem.
And what’s coming up? Apparently, a live-action version of Hans Christian Andersen’s Little Mermaid (not connected with the Disney version) is in the works. MacLaine plays an “eccentric” older woman (of course) who apparently opens the story.
It’s so wonderful to see this feisty, quirky, indefatigable actress–one of our best–keep making movie after movie after movie. It is partly due to the persistence of stars like her that “meaty” roles for women “of a certain age” are being written!
As a drama teacher/director, speech coach, English and social studies teacher, Sue has been called “Wurster, the Wily Word Woman” by a host of former students. At BOLLI, she continues to ply her wordy trade in her work with CAST (creative acting, storytelling and theatre) and the Writers Guild.