SPOILER WARNING. I will be revealing the Big Secret.
As I write this it is about 23 hours until those little gold statues are handed out, in what seems likely to be the most fucked-up Oscars ever. The smart money says that Lady Gaga, Olivia Colman, Melissa McCarthy, and Yalitza Aparicio needn’t show up, as this is finally the year for Glenn Close to win, after six previous nominations. And though, of the others, I’ve only seen Gaga, I sure wouldn’t argue with it. This is a stunning performance. Jonathan Price is a well-respected novelist who has won the Nobel Prize. But right from the first something about him didn’t ring true. You sort of picture a Nobel winner as dignified, indifferent to awards. Maybe it’s a stereotype, and untrue, but there it is. But when this dude gets the phone call (and he has spent a sleepless night waiting for it) he behaves literally like a sophomore girl who has just been named head cheerleader, literally jumping up and down on the bed with his wife, who is a bit more restrained about it all.
We soon see that she has played the role of caretaker for the dude. He can’t even be bothered to carry his own reading glasses. I disliked him from the first, and grew to dislike him more with every scene. Meantime, Close is smoldering just below the surface. We get flashbacks of how they met, he a young professor, she a rather worshipful undergrad who wants to write.
And it turns out that, when she reads his stuff, it pretty much stinks. He’s good with plot, but has no style at all. She offers to “edit” his work a little … and 40 years later there they are in Stockholm, she in the audience, he getting a medal from the King of Sweden. It is her genius which has been celebrated all these years. She subordinated herself totally to him, in the belief that no one would take a woman writer seriously in the 1950s. (There is certainly truth in that, but it wouldn’t be hard to find 20 successful and respected female writers from that era. They had to work harder, true.)
There is a subplot of a rather shifty journalist, Christian Slater, who has read her early work and is onto her secret, but that’s really a side issue to me. The real burn in this story is all hers. An excellent film, with a performance by Glenn Close that is among her best.
NEWS FLASH!!! STOP THE PRESSES!!! In the first of only two big surprises at the Oscars yesterday night (which were not nearly as awful as everyone feared) the statue went to Olivia Colman for The Favourite. We only know her for her great work on the TV series Broadchurch. No one was more surprised than she was. She was gobsmacked. She stated that Glenn Close has been her idol, and regretted that this was how they would first meet. Then to wind up, she blew a kiss to Lady Gaga, who blew one back. Well, she already had her Oscar for that song, “Shallow,” which I have to say made a pretty shallow impression on me.