In the current New Yorker one can see, within four pages, three celebrated gender-benders get taken apart by two critics.
The good luck of the original production and of the 2001 film version was that they featured tart, alert, commanding actresses – Kathleen Chalfant and Emma Thompson – who could embody the psychological profile of the droll, arrogant, solitary, bluestocking professor. The bad luck of this revival … is that it does not. Cynthia Nixon, who is known to one and all as Miranda Hobbes in “Sex and the City,” plays Vivian without Chalfant’s and Thompson’s rebarbative wallop.
Let’s pause here to say (a) who wants to follow Emma Thompson in a role? and (b) what Lahr doesn’t say is that relative to the other three lead characters in “Sex and the City,” Miranda was the intellectual, which may be the source of the confusion here.
… she can’t see the wink in the words … Although Nixon, who has fought her own battle with cancer, is entirely believable as a patient, as an academic she never really convinces the audience that she knows what she’s talking about. Suzanne Bertish, as … Vivian’s … mentor … exudes a very specific intellectual gravity, which only compounds the sense of Nixon’s being outside her tole. Nixon is best when pain pushes Vivian beyond the words … and she whimpers for solace.
A left-handed compliment if ever there were one. Better when she whimpers! Moving on.
Anthony Lane on Madonna as director of W.E. – and really, there was never going to be a good outcome here, but:
Recent reports from Liverpool claimed that irate moviegoers had come out of “The Artist” complaining that there were no words in it, and asking for their money back. In the same spirit, I hereby demand a refund for “W.E.,” because of its outrageous lack of sex. What on earth is the point of a Madonna product, in any medium, if it contains not a single orgy? … It didn’t have to be this way. What Madonna should have done … is to buy the movie rights to “Full Service” (Grove Press), a new memoir by Scotty Bowers. He made his reputation by sleeping with everyone in Hollywood who wasn’t actually Lassie, and how he tells all. If you If you ever suspected that Spencer Tracy was bisexual and Tyrone Power a coprophiliac, and if you happen to believe everything you read, here is all the testimony you require. Bowers takes particular pride in the services that he performed for, and with, the Duke and Duchess on a visit to America: “Essentially, he was gay and she was a dyke.” Ah, happy days … Bowers’s reveries have fanned the flames, and it is a shame that Madonna should come along and douse them.
I’ve hidden one of Lane’s best lines in the last ellipse, just for fun.
Then Lane wheels about to dismiss Glenn Close, for Albert Nobbs.
… the problem with such indecision, as voiced by Close, is it makes Albert sound like a simpleton, regardless of the agonies that may be imposed upon society by the need for sexual choice. That is why “Albert Nobbs” awakes so bracingly whenever Janet McTeer marches into view. She plays Hubert Page … [b]y a merry coincidence, Hubert, too, turns out to be a woman underneath … she is no perhapser, but a thoroughgoing yes-woman, like Molly Bloom … Imagine a different film on a similar theme, with Hubert moved to center stage and Garcia replaced by Pedro Almodóvar, for whom cross-dressers in a Catholic country would be meat and drink. Poor Albert could then retreat into the shadows, where he so evidently belongs …
Gendered readings of these critiques, if any, are left as an exercise for the comments.