Cate Blanchett – Too much of a good thing?

In the Eighties and Nineties, there was hardly a French film that did not feature Gerard Depardieu. Fine actor that he is, it got to the stage that when a new French film came out I would ask, “Apart from Depardieu, who else is in it?”

The Aussie actress, Cate Blanchett, seems to be doing a Depardieu at the moment. Currently, there are three films with her in them. I fear she’s going to outstay her welcome if she doesn’t pace herself and resist taking on more roles until we have recovered from a Cate overload.

It’s because she’s such a talented actress that I believe she will enjoy a long career. And it’s because I would like her to endure that I worry that she’s over-exposed.

It’s simply too much for an audience to switch from seeing her as a silly schoolteacher who has an affair with a pupil to seeing her as a wounded wife in “Babel” and a mistress in postwar Germany in “The Good German”.

In accepting so many roles, Cate is risking alienating her audience who need time to accept each individual role as being credible. To see her jump from one character to another smacks of desperation. It’s as if she wants to concentrate all her acting in a short space of time in case her career fizzles out. In so doing, however, she risks losing the very thing that she wants.

The one thing going for Cate, however, is a chameleon-like quality. Just like Alec Guinness who described himself as a sort of non-entity who could be made up to look like anyone, Cate can take on the appearance of many characters, which probably accounts for the diverse roles she has played. This should ensure her longevity provided she doesn’t saturate the film world with her performances all at once.

It’s what happened to Nicole Kidman. Her last few films have been failures and while it’s true that Cate is a much more talented actress than Nicole, we may become tired of her too. Cate should leave us wanting more and looking forward to her next movie.

Having said my piece about Cate, I would like to recommend “Notes on a Scandal” which is a thrilling study of a fatal attraction relationship between two women, Sheba Hart(Cate) and Barbara Covett(Dame Judi Dench).

Both are schoolteachers in a typically miserable English school. On meeting Sheba, the new art teacher, Barbara is immediately attracted to her and a promising friendship blossoms between the two women. But the friendship is ruined when Barbara discovers that Sheba has begun an affair with a fifteen year-old pupil. I did say that Sheba was a bit silly.

There are many twists and turns to the plot that make the film suspenseful and touching. When one sees Cate’s disappointment in having produced a Down’s Syndrome child who shatters the peace in her home and makes her want to escape into the arms of an unscrupulous boy, one almost feels sorry for her.

But not quite. She ‘s a terrible teacher, not much of a mother and rather stupid really if she can’t recognise that Barbara has an unhealthy interest in her.

Cate acts very well as the shallow and very flawed character, but it is Judi Dench who carries the film. Hers is an inspired performance. She is utterly convincing as the lonely lesbian who reacts badly to being betrayed. I have never seen Judi Dench in better form and that’s saying something because she’s always amazing.

“Notes on a Scandal” is primarily about loneliness and although Barbara is hardly a likable character, it is her agonising loneliness that makes us empathise with her. We can excuse her desperate actions because she goes deep into our souls and strikes us where we are vulnerable. We watch her suffering and we relate to her despair.

The screenplay, by Patrick Marber, is beautifully executed and unlike “Little Children” one can’t tell that it is adapted from a novel. The director is Richard Eyre who also directed Judi Dench in another film, “Iris”.

Not for one minute did I look at my watch during the film, as I had done with “Little Children”. In fact, I was sorry when it ended, which says it all really.


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