Thursday, April 28, 2011

Characters you love to hate... or just plain hate.

I recently watched the Fighter. (I know… very late to the party). It was good of course and Christian Bale’s performance came singing through. Totally worthy of his Academy Award.

I also tried to appreciate Melissa Leo’s performance of the mother I really did… but WOW I hated her. The character… not the actress.
I hated the way she treated her sons differently. I hated her selfishness which was evident throughout the film. I get the actress was trying to accomplish this but when I spend time with characters I hate so completely I find it difficult to enjoy any element of the film.

Conversely the sisters, who I’m not sure if we’re meant to hate or not - I loved. They were in the background spouting out a line here or there making me laugh. They were endearing. Even Dickie was endearing. As awful as he was I was always rooting for him. The mother, however, like nails on a chalkboard.

I had the same problem with the HBO mini-series Mildred Pierce. The daughter throughout this series is so horrible, so spoiled, so nasty and churlish I eventually had to stop watching. I couldn’t stand it. I needed to transport myself into the television and spank that kid. Again the actress (both child and grown woman) did this with intent, but I found the part too hard to watch and that’s not good.

I know we regurgitate the same information about writing all the time. But part of blogging about it and talking about it is so we can reinforce it. Creating a villain isn’t easy. Drawing someone who is selfish, evil, manipulative whatever… and still making them watchable and compelling is no small feat.

I love to hate the King from True Blood. I love to hate Nicky from Big Love. I love to hate the Queen most recently in Game of Thrones. Loving a nasty character is fun. It’s like taking a walk on the dark side with them for that hour or two.

Hating a character… well to me it means something was left out. The thing that makes the character human enough or vulnerable enough so although we know they are meant to be the villain we can still empathize with them enough to stay in their world for a time.


Simone St. James said...

I loved The Fighter. But now that I think of it, you are right about the mother. She was really using him the whole way through, wasn't she? We never saw any motivation for it except money.

The sisters killed me. They were so awful, and there were so many of them! It was like there were more of them in every scene, lol.

Sinead M said...

I really need to see the Fighter. I did see Mildred Pierce and you are so right about the daughter. She was completely unlikeable and I never understood her actions.

She came across to me as one-dimsional and so annoying.

Eileen said...

I really enjoyed The Fighter, but one of the things I was thinking about afterward was how interesting it was that the Academy Awards should honor the two most obnoxious characters and not Mark Wahlberg. It seemed like an echo of the movie where everything was always about Dickie and the mother and never about the quiet heroism of the man who saw his family's flaws and still carried them on his back with love and honor.

I've been around a few alcoholics and drug addicts (we probably all have) and Dickie was tremendously predictable in that way as was, in some ways, the mother who enabled him so completely.

Making bad guys can be tricky. I just had a little mental breakthrough yesterday about the antagonist in the proposal I'm working on and it was SUCH a relief. I know who she is and why she's doing what she's doing. I still have to figure out exactly WHAT she's going to do, though. :-)

Maureen McGowan said...

The mother in The Fighter was horrible, but I have to admit I loved to hate her. And she's the main reason I loved and was rooting for the Wahlberg character so fully.

Now the daughter in Mildred Pierce... I agree with you there. (Although I haven't watched the entire thing, yet.

I think the issue is we never saw that kid being spoiled and turning into such a stuck up brat.

I think maybe the daughter is a metaphor for the depression and how unfair life was in the 30's? Maybe not. I think it was basically melodramatic popular fiction in its time, but maybe the unfair cruelty spoke to the audience back then? Now, you're right, you just want to slap her.

Maureen McGowan said...

Oh, and Eileen, I agree about Wahlberg. He held that movie together and it was such a subtle performance.

I was really hoping The Fighter would win best picture so that at least he could get recognized as the producer of the film.

Stephanie Doyle said...

Eileen you're right. But I agree with Maureen that the performance was very subtle.

And it's not often that the Academy rewards "subtle" performances.

Simone - it took me 1/2 the movie to figure out how many sisters there were. And when they are all piled in the... hilarious!

Eileen said...

Why is that? Shouldn't the Academy, the movie industry itself, be the ones to point out the subtle performances, the ones that are difficult rather than the scenery-chewing ones?

The sisters were hysterical. I loved the way they acted as some kind of Greek chorus rather than as individuals. When the fight breaks out in the bar right after Mark Wahlberg gets what's-her-face's phone number as he doesn't even react to being jostled by their fisticuffs, just grins about the phone number? Loved it on SO many levels.

Also, I think I could maybe look at Mark Wahlberg without his shirt on in that movie for a long time. ;-)

Stephanie Doyle said...

Yep. But I remember when Harrison Ford was nominated for Witness (back when I was still in love with him as Han Solo) I thought - he'll never win. He's too quiet.

But I'm not the movie buff Maureen is. Maybe she can think of quiet subtle performances that have brought home the award.

And Eileen - Mark without his shirt is always just a joy to behold.

Eileen said...

True that, my sister. True that.

Molly O'Keefe said...

I totally understood Melissa Leo's character - that enabling mother of a wrecked kid who also happens to be charming and because he's an addict, totally manipulative and that woman just wanted to be loved and Dickie loved her like she wanted. I totally got it. Micky with his earnestness and his low-key humility - not giving mom the sing a longs in the car like the drug addict does. I totally got it.

I think those quiet actors with the quiet performances they get older and then they do some small movie like Jeff Bridges, and they win and everyone stands up because they know how long overdue it is - Matt Damon will be one of those probably. I watched part of Blade Runner last night - that Harrison good. But he doesn't care about the awards - at least that's my take, because he makes nothing but stinkers these days.

oh, right - characters we hate -- I can't think of any right now...I'm thinking about Whalberg without his shirt....

Eileen said...

Hot damn, Molly! NOW I understand that mother! I didn't get her at all and now it seems perfectly clear. Nice insight!

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