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Frances McDormand -- An Actor's Actor

Marion Charatan

Posted on February 11, 2021 00:36

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What sets a great actor apart apart from the masses of other performers on stage and in film? Just watch Frances McDormand and you'll get the answer. See her in her new role in Nomadland, opening on Friday, February 19.

Some years ago, I discovered a movie called Mississippi Burning. The film was set in the 1960s and was about the horrifying kidnapping and murders of 3 young black civil rights workers in a fictional, small Southern town. Frances McDormand's character was an empathetic and gentle hairstylist named Mrs. Pell-- married to a controlling ignoramus of a husband, the town's Deputy Sheriff Pell (Brad Dourif). Living smack dab in the middle of a town wracked with racial injustice, Mrs. Pell struggled with her own disdain for hatred and prejudice. 

I didn't know who Francis McDormand was at the time. But I was drawn to her on the screen. McDormand's performance pulled me into the story and I felt like I was there; living inside the big screen.

The camera loves Frances McDormand's face. Although some have said the actress is not classically beautiful, there is an ethereal quality that makes her almost unworldly and beautiful to see. She is able to convey a prism of emotions, from fear to compassion or love to hate, simultaneously that others with less skill could not communicate.

In an article in Vogue magazine, writer Arden Fanning Andrews stated that the 2-time Oscar winner has rewritten Hollywood's beauty standards because she redefines what traditional beauty is. Like Meryl Streep, McDormand is lovely and luminous in a unique way. Both are extraordinarily gifted actors who have a knack for drawing you completely into a film. Al Pacino did that for me in Carlito's Way and The Godfather. It's not something you can teach in acting school, in my layperson opinion. And I think he's one of the most attractive actors who ever graced the screen. Pacino lures you into a film with one glance.

Bringing it back to McDormand, her characterization in Mississippi Burning was exceptionally touching because she displayed the anguish and conflict of a woman stuck in quicksand; caught in a situation she disagrees with. Mrs. Pell had to 'tow the line' because of her own circumstances and fears. She was emotionally attached to her husband and loved him, but hated his views and the Ku Klux Klan activities he was involved in. When she spoke out against him, whistle-blowing to FBI agent Anderson (Gene Hackman), she, too, became a victim of her husband's vitriol and was beaten almost beyond recognition. 

McDormand is in a new role that is already getting Oscar buzz. The film, Nomadland, is about a woman who goes out on the road after she loses her job in 2011 in the Great Recession. The plot is timely, especially in light of what people are going through right now during the pandemic. There are a handful of actors I would pay money to see, no matter what -- and Frances McDormand is one of them.

Nomadland has already grabbed four Golden Globe nominations plus a Screen Actors Guild nomination for Best Actress Frances McDormand. The film opens in theaters and on Hulu on February 19. 

Marion Charatan

Posted on February 11, 2021 00:36

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