Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Best Actor 1992: Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman

Al Pacino won his Oscar from his eighth nomination for portraying Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade in Scent of a Woman.

Scent of a Woman is a film about a young prep school student Charley (Chris O'Donnell) who takes a job caring for a blind depressed and flamboyant soldier.

Al Pacino win he is one generally characterized as a make up win, and that certainly is a valid statement considering this is still is his last nomination at the moment, and he had last seven times previously including once the very same year. Pacino's performance here also seemed to have a detrimental effect on his performances from than on since many of his performances seemed to be some sort of a variation on this performance.

This performance is not usually liked, and is many times mocked for being an Oscar grabbing sort of performance. There is perhaps truth to that second aspect, since after all he plays a blind man, who is going over some serious emotional troubles. Well the blindness part of his performance, in which he stares blankly at nothing, has been given both criticism as well as praise, I really can't say it matters too much either way, since he technically could have worn sunglasses, or the blindness causing contact lenses it is only really a small part of his performance that does not contribute much, nor does it take away from the overall effect of his performance.

This is actually a bit of a mixed performance for me in that there are many aspects of his performance that seem much too calculated. I think this is the most obvious when he has his big yelling scenes, particularly in his final speech at the end of the film. He uses this southern accent only some of the time, and it is rather random if he decides to use it or not, and I think most of the time he tends not to, and frankly he is better when he does not do the accent.

Pacino has plenty of the yelling scenes in fact most of the performance is him yelling, but the idea of yelling alone does not make a performance good nor bad, since some characters are suppose to yell and Frank Slade certainly is one of them. I think Pacino is really hit and miss in many of his yelling scenes, and I do think he is effectively entertaining some of the time when he properly finds the flow of his character, but other times he is overly calculated in his performance.

Pacino does have some quieter scenes, or at least as quiet as they can be for Frank Slade. I really do not think he always overacts, since I do think Pacino successfully shows that his constant yelling his basically his way to compensate for his blindness, although sometimes he does such as in his final speech where he seems to be reciting the lines in his head a little too much, but even in that scene I think goes back and forth in terms of the strength of his performance.

Pacino I do think succeeds with Slade some or even much of the time, in giving a charming performance, and although the crazy mentor character is possibly a bit much, I thought he did make him work in some scenes fairly well. I thought particularly in the big tango scene where he is properly magnetic and effective. Pacino though also I do think effectively shows the pathos of the character, and how his connection with Charley is something special to Slade, without forcing it too much.

This is a performance that was rather difficult for me to write to be honest, because I think it is an entirely inconsistent performance for me. Sometimes he does certainly go over the top, and is overdone in his "acting, but other moments I think he finds a way for his loud character to work rather well. So really this is a performance I do like, but I most certainly have many reservations about.


Anonymous said...

Great review. Not his best performance but he has some effective scenes such as the dinner at his brother's house and the scene at the end

mrripley said...

such a shame it was a make up win like freeman in 04 and winslet in 08,i loathe make up noms.