Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Two things I want to write about, and Frances Conroy connects them

The first thing is Broken Flowers, in which Conroy plays one of Bill Murray's old flames. What a sad, sad movie. I'm confused when people call these neo-Murray movies comedies. Lost in Translation was not, in any respect, a comedy. And neither is Flowers. It is an occasionally amusing, somewhat whimsical tragedy.

Murray is satisfactory for the role, just as he was satisfactory for the Translation role. The four women who play his counterparts do the real work. Sharon Stone (above, with Murray), Jessica Lange, Tilda Swinton, and Conroy--four of the best working actresses with some nice, tight, deep supporting roles. What a treat to see them create their own little worlds, which Murray invades on his road trip.

The day after I saw Flowers, I caught the series finale of Six Feet Under. I've seen the errant episode over the past four years. I remember discovering it my freshman year in the dorms and being intrigued. Never stuck, though. But I sat for the finale, as I do for many finales of TV shows I don't watch (to be a part of "history," you know?). I'm glad I did.

American Beauty is fine and whatever, but 6FU is Alan Ball's real contribution. And I say this having seen maybe two or three episodes the whole way through. But Sunday's finale was striking, and moving, and ambitious. I won't dwell on its operatic tone, or its subtleties and grand gestures on the human condition, but it brings me back to Conroy (below).

What an actor of great reserve and strength. I am judging her solely on this series finale. You can tell she anchors the show, not only because she plays the matriarch but also because she plays it so precisely and comfortably. This is a woman who knows her character and her show fully, perhaps even better than Ball and his team.

There is a scene in which she calls the woman her son was with the night he died. She asks the woman if her son was happy--not if his life was happy, but if he was happy that night. The answer she gets sets her free, resuscitates her from all manner of grief, and you can tell its the emotional crux of the series. I've rarely been so affected by television and by a performance.

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