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"I'm in this chair because I've got multiple sclerosis," thunders Julie
Andrews (as Stephanie) to her shrink - rather a caricature - Max von
Sydow. There is anger, there is bitterness, there is a resignation,
there is a sense of loss, a sense of frustration and an understated
(and unstated) acknowledgement that we all die alone...
In one line, Ms Andrews displays a depth to her dramatic performance not yet seen by viewers. I remember some rather disparaging comments being made about this casting (as well as for 84 Charing Cross Road, released in the same time frame as Duet for One). Most of these were aimed at the casting of Julie Andrews in a pivotal dramatic role.
Understandable, perhaps, as Julie Andrews *is* better known as a musical star (though cannot make any more musical films)and is seen as either Mary Poppins or Maria von Trapp. In reality, Ms Andrews has made more non-musical films than musical films.
Duet for One, though, was a departure from other roles: this film is kept alive only by the performance of Julie Andrews -- the other characters are merely 'supporting' characters. Julie Andrews does what she has done in previous musical films: she takes centre stage.
Her performance is absolutely brilliant -- she received two Golden Globe nominations as Lead Actress in one year (1986): For drama, 'Duet for One'; for comedy/musical, 'That's Life.'
I saw both in London in 1987. Julie Andrews, it seemed by overwhelming critical responses, had 'come of age'. Her performances were measured, realistic and gritty: and even with the subject matter of Duet for One, never diminishes into audience-pleasing wallowing sympathy.
I do think that Julie Andrews has been a much-cheated actress: audiences do not seem to *want* her to be more than a musical star. She has great comic timing (such a pity that there never was a vehicle to exploit this talent). In 'Duet for One', she convinces that she can act: she is in control, but a weighty script, uneven directing and blurred focus helped this movie to sink.
And again, an excellent performance is not seen by a large number of people. There is gritty, gutsy work and Julie Andrews *should* have been nominated for an Academy Award (rather than a strange nomination to Jane Fonda for 'The Morning After'.
This film is not good ('Hilary and Jacky' is much better) but the lead performance is outstanding. If you get a chance, see it. For Julie Andrews' work and some fine classical music, outstandingly weaved into the soundtrack in background and foreground, it's stunning.
And there are interesting supporting cast vignettes too, notably those of Liam Neeson and Cathryn Harrison.
A great pity that this film has diluted its original play so much, but it's still worth seeing.
Julie Andrews is positively moving in this story abotu a world-famous violinist who has been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (true story).Miss Andrews acts this part wonderfully. She is deep and well, exactly right for the part of Stephanie Anderson. Liam Neeson plays a merchant whom Stephanie has an affair with when her husband (Alan Bates) is on vacation. Cathryn Harrison (Best Actor winner Rex Harrison's grandaughter) plays a small role, as well. Marvelous film, deserves much praise, and if the movie doesn't deserve praise Julie Andrews most certainly does!
Julie Andrews did a remarkable job playing the character of Stephanie Anderson in this movie. She did a great job of expressing the trial and tribulations that stephanie anderson goes through as she copes with MS. Great Job Julie! You deserved an Oscar for your performance!
I was surprised this disappeared the way it did and that Julie Andrews did not receive an Academy Award nomination. It's a tough uncompromising depiction of what it's like for someone who is losing control physically and starts to lose it emotionally as well. The scene in the back of the car where Andrews and Alan Bates argue and he goes that one step too far is unlike any personal altercation I can recall seeing on film. I found the film totally engrossing and very moving.
Virtuoso violinist Julie Andrews loses the flexibility of her fingers and hands due to the "creeping paralysis" of multiple sclerosis, relating the loss of making music to a loss of life; she gives away her possessions, her prospects, even her husband (to the hand of his adoring, bespectacled secretary with the great knees). It isn't enough to call "Duet For One" a lousy movie...it is a mesmerizingly wrong-headed movie, and its general stupidity appears entirely intentional. Tom Kempinski adapted his own play with help from Jeremy Lipp and the film's director, Andrei Konchalovsky, and what was an intimate exercise in melodrama has been blown-up into a solipsistic vehicle for the star-lead. Andrews goes through the expected stages of grief, lashing out in her angry-phase at anyone who pities her--but just as quickly tempering her frustration with a second layer of pity for the friend who feels her pain. She tells everyone their business, including her psychoanalyst (whom she 'teaches' in much the same way as the married stud she has picked-up from the streets). Andrews probably felt this role would enable her to give a multi-shaded portrayal of a woman at the end of her tether, yet the film is so condescending to the audience in its view of MS that we never even meet any of the protagonist's doctors; she appears to suffer in a vacuum. According to the writers, the best way to combat the disease is to play matchmaker and then make a clean exit. There is a dream sequence twenty minutes in that is an unfair trick to play on the viewer, while the supporting cast looks drained and drawn by the hard-edged sentimentality (which is relentless). The filmmakers don't appear to know anything about multiple sclerosis, the disease being used as a theme for a study in character. Since that character is viewed as having a monopoly on personal suffering, the picture quickly congeals into the worst kind of pity party--one with crocodile tears. *1/2 from ****
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
My least favourite approach to a movie is when, either through the
writing, the direction or the acting, there is no character (or in the
case of this film only one) in the cast who is either a)remotely
likable, or b)displays any features that could be described as 'morally
redeemable'. I find it a waste of time spending 100 minutes in a
darkened cinema (or even in my living room) only to be pummelled with
unpleasant people and/or horrible situations.
The problem with this movie is that the dilemma of the main character in this film (Julie Andrews) is unpleasant, and she is surrounded by three extremely unpleasant men, who unfortunately have absolutely no intention of helping her in any kind of humane or civilised manner precisely because she is suffering from a terminal illness. This kind of scenario to me is tantamount to cinematic suicide why bother watching something as heartless as this and pretending that it is entertainment? Julie Andrews plays a famous concert violinist with everything to live for, but she is struck down with multiple sclerosis. The three (useless) men in her life are in varying degrees, charming, bloody minded, selfish or just infuriatingly ignorant. And this is even before they have found out that she's sick! Alan Bates is Julie's charming rogue of a husband who has no intention of staying with her. Rupert Everett is her favourite pupil, but he has found his own wings after spending years under her tutelage and has no intention of letting his brilliant career be sacrificed because of her illness. Finally, (and mercifully), Max von Sydow plays Andrews' psychiatrist, and why she needs advice from a sociopath like this guy is a complete mystery.
Some reviews have praised this to the sky, but I cannot find it within my critical faculties to say anything positive at all about 'Duet for One'. Much like its supporting characters, it is self aggrandizing, boring and mean spirited, and why poor Julie Andrews is supposed to put up with these reprehensible assholes is anyone's guess. Despite the presence of Alan Bates who is always welcome (even when he is playing an asshole), this film does not have anything going for it, and I found it to be a particularly unpleasant, unnecessary and unedifying experience.
...and also make a nonsense of your title. The film is based on
play, which is so called because, although a two-hander, it is much closer
to being a one-woman show. The stage version was produced for BBC
Television with Frances De La Tour, the original star, and is much more
worth watching than this sentimentalised claptrap. For one thing, when in
magnificent outburst she attempts to shock the psychiatrist by admitting
that she has been "f***ing a totter", part of the power of this is by your
wondering what is going on in the head of this refined and cultural woman,
for her to be taking a dirty Steptoe-like rag and bone man into her bed.
The point is completely lost if you *show* the totter, and what is more
Liam Neeson in the part!
Kempinski remained on the credits as the screenwriter, so it seems he only has himself to blame for this utter emasculation of what was really an excellent play, loosely based on the shattering loss of Jacqueline Du Pré's art, career and normal life to multiple sclerosis.
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