Thursday, February 28, 2008
There's Your Balance
Lines of communication need to remain open. That’s the only way it can work in what I do every day but sometimes people forget that. So that’s why I’m sitting here right now thinking, when should I have my first drink? Did the day really have to go like this? Would Karen Crowder have allowed this sort of thing to happen?
Making the call that Tilda Swinton was going to win Best Supporting Actress for her role in MICHAEL CLAYTON had to do with the quality of her work in the role which has stuck with me all these months but also a sixth-sense feeling of the way the wind was blowing. For once, it’s also a genuine supporting performance, not an extended cameo and not a big star appearing as part of an ensemble. Maybe my own attempts to will the award to actually happen had something to do with it as well.
Swinton’s Karen Crowder is first seen in a bathroom stall, breathing heavily as she takes notice of the sweat stain showing through her underarm in her presumably expensive clothing. The amount of time we see Karen Crowder preparing herself, rehearsing herself always makes us think back to this beat, contrasting the hard-faced businesswoman who barks down George Clooney’s Michael Clayton in the scene where they first meet with the person rehearsing herself in the mirror as we spot that chunk of flesh under her bra. The character has allowed herself to become so morally compromised that she can no longer be thought of as in over her head. She’s an intelligent person who has allowed herself to become a hateful bag of nerves in this world of ours. And yet, in those private moments we’re given a peek behind the curtain to see the human being that is still trying to peek through.
It’s one of the successes of the film that she is playing essentially “the bitch” but the movie is too smart to ever see her in such a simplistic way. Part of it is definitely on the page in Tony Gilroy’s script and part of it is also in the way she carries herself every instant she’s onscreen. She addresses the issue of balance in life and work as if it were a purely intellectual concept, rehearsing her own spontaneity of the answer as she comes down on the work side of the equation concluding, “There’s your balance.” It’s a brilliant little moment in both script and performance. Her entire role, a good chunk of it played alone, is filled with moments like that and Swinton earns the private moment her character receives near the end. I wouldn’t have anything to say to Karen Crowder if I ever met her and I’m fairly certain she would treat me with total disdain. It doesn’t prevent me from finding her completely and continually fascinating.