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« Curio: Our Annual Hunger Games | Main | Why Michelle Pfeiffer Probably Won't and Probably Shouldn't Do "American Horror Story" »
Tuesday
Nov262013

Team FYC: Cameron Diaz for Best Supporting Actress

[Editor's Note: The FYC series brings together all Film Experience contributors to highlight our favorite fringe Oscar contenders. Jose Solis asks you to reconsider Cameron Diaz's supporting performance in The Counselor.]

It’s not only her scenery chewing, her car-fucking skills, her ability to pull off excess jewelry and animal print or the lustful-yet-motherly way in which she looks at her pet cheetahs. It's her commitment to this insanity that makes Cameron Diaz brilliant in The Counselor. Playing the heartless envoy from hell, Malkina, she creates one of the most compelling visions of evil contemporary cinema has given us. Because her evil seems to have roots in a horrifying childhood (her parents were thrown out of a helicopter!) she escapes the burden of just being a universal symbol of cruelty (a la Javier Bardem in No Country for Old Men). She even shows us a glimpse of what might be underlying human qualities underneath her faux-bronzed skin when she shows envy and certain disappointment at not being able to love the way her friend Laura (Pé) does. Diaz delivers Cormac McCarthy’s senselessly beautiful lines with such passion and purpose that we can’t help but pretend we know what on Earth she’s going on about or why anything is in this movie.

The film was trashed by both critics and audiences; they failed to see beyond the movie's failure as a thriller and recognize that this is experimental film of the highest order, with references to American literature, Italian excess cinema and one of the most chilling reinterpretations of a Tennessee Williams scene I’ve seen. The Counselor is post-noir cinema. The best way I've found to explain why I loved Diaz was to compare the film to classic noir and suggest that if The Counselor had been made in the 1940’s, Malkina would have been played by Gloria Grahame. Like that Oscar winning actress, Diaz is the kind of “dame” who would make us kill for her and then slit our throats when we came back looking for the reward she promised us.  

previously: World War Z

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Reader Comments (28)

I am so in love with this post-The Counselor is that movie this year where my opinion of it changes every five minutes, but I cannot say that Diaz wasn't mesmerizing and insanely watchable in the film.

Also, perhaps I'm being obtuse here, but which scene was the Tennessee Williams one?

November 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJohn T

John T -- then i am also obtuse. Care to explain Jose? (and also: Cameron Diaz didn't rescue the movie for me -- she was just as nonsensical as the rest of it (other than the "oh boy you're in trouble if you do this" obvious death spiral structure) though she certainly was a VISION so props to the costume and makeup team, cheetah accessories and Cameron's own swagger.

November 26, 2013 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

The movie is bad not because it fails as a thriller but because it's unbearably self-important. Every phone call is a lecture, every dialogue is a meditation on the nature of good and evil; there is just no room for a plain good morning. No Country For Old Men was brilliant because its nihilism was not based on words; you just feel the despair and the doom. In The Counselor people explain one another that everything is shit all the time.

HATED IT.

But I'd love to see Diaz's character in another movie. She was really good in it.

November 26, 2013 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

I LOVED her in this. If it was up to me, she would get the Oscar this year for Malkina. I just hope a critics group or The Globes give life to her chances.

November 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBia

I really liked her in it too. So grateful when she was onscreen, since I hated every other single thing about The Counselor.

November 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMike in Canada

Meh. I actually preferred both Penelope Cruz and Rosie Perez from the female cast in this movie.

November 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSquasher88

I don't even know what to say about this post, she was completely and utterly terrible in this film.

November 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa

And she had to dub her lines since she sounded like Rihanna

November 26, 2013 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

Agreed Melissa. I read the script after being thoroughly confused by the film and discovered a few things that helped me understand what they were going for. Still, the film is a mess, an admirable one, but still a mess. The character of Malkina could have been something interesting, but Diaz's range kept pulling it back to camp. She only had 3 chords to go on and she played them too heavily; evil eyes, dark humor and presence. If this performance gets nominated when they neglecting to recognize Nicole Kidman in "The Paperboy" (an equally admirable mess) I will be floored.

November 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCurtis

*neglected

November 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCurtis

Melissa -- haha. i figured someone would object this vehemently. I'm not sure what Jose saw in it but he really really has been loudly supporting it here and elsewhere ;)

November 26, 2013 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I found the film interesting but a bit repellent at times,Cruz was badly mistreated,Diaz was good/solid but the role could have been so much more,she played her cards too early,a bit Manchurian Candidate Streep=ish.

November 26, 2013 | Unregistered Commentermark

I didn't feel like Diaz even understood half of her dialogue, and decided to compensate with this really vampy schtick, which is so disconnected from the rest of the film tonally that it has an interesting destablizing effect on her scenes. What does Bardem say about her car humping? It was too gynecological to be sexy, or something? Her whole performance is that car humping scene writ large - ultimately undermining your expectations of what a role like hers ought to be. I suspect that was probably intentional given her role in the narrative, but maybe not. Hard to say. I don't know that it's an especially good performance, regardless of function, but it's certainly interesting, as is the film, even if neither feels entirely or even mostly successful.

November 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRoark

Remember when we all thought she was an actual Oscar possibility? I'm not rushing to see The Counselor, by any means, but I can't say that I wouldn't perhaps watch an extended super-cut of all of Cameron's "best" (read: fiercest) moments. Get on it, someone.

November 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Eng

Yeah, I'm not a fan of the film but I did like Diaz simply because whenever she was on screen the film at least had a pulse.

November 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn

I have rarely enjoyed Diaz, if ever. I have enjoyed films she was in, but it was not her participation that brought on the enjoyment so I can't imagine a performance from her that I would find Oscar worthy.

November 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

I just don't think Miss Hannigan should behave this way, even after a particularly bad bender.

The infamous vehicular sexual assault in The Counselor is one of those blantantly desperate moves to try to impart significance on a script that is sadly lacking in any.

November 26, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

I think this is her "IN THE CUT"

November 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDavid

At least she is trying out some different roles,she obviously realises that at 41 time's ticking,she needs a radical career change and it seems she ha started.

November 26, 2013 | Unregistered Commentermark

John T: I might be reading too much into this but that scene after the Counselor leaves the bar - the bartender has just warned him that he'll get shot if he goes outside - and then he runs into that protest on the square and makes his way between the crowd, was completely inspired by the "flores para los muertos" scene in "A Streetcar Named Desire".

I thought it was especially significant how the Spanish lines in that scene weren't subtitled, making for an altogether eerier tone if you don't speak the language. Basically the woman on the main stage was asking people not to forget the dead of Juarez, which not only was linked to all the other unsolved murders in the film, but also captures the same spirit of Williams' scene in which Blanche is confronted by the flower woman who is begging her no to forget about the dead. PS: thank you for loving the post.

brookesboy: But the movie's significance is that nothing is significant. Because of its nonsensical nature - Rubén Blades' speech is a thing of ridiculous beauty - the over the top-ness of all the acting and the fact that it doesn't care about its audience in the least, both McCarthy and Scott were alluding to how desperate we are to find meaning in a world that doesn't care about us and how frustrated we are when we don't find said meaning.

---- on another note, I thought I'd be getting some more reactions to how I compared her to Gloria Grahame...

November 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJose

i still say she's a serious threat for a globe nom. think Kidman in paperboy

November 26, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterryan

I was really happy to see she got a bait-y role again, and was hoping to finally see her as an Oscar nominee. Oh wellz. Better luck next time.

November 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip H.

@Jose

Gloria Grahame would never be that one-note, sorry. Being a vamp was not a costume, something external. She played a lot of different feelings and that made her an iconic femme fatale. Diaz play the archetype from the outside.

November 26, 2013 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

Come on, cal roth I thought you were on my team! Haha. How did you go from saying she was "really good" to calling her "one-note"? #sadface

I don't think she was one-note at all, I feel like we live in a time where we know WAY too much about the movie industry and all the magic of watching a fresh performance is gone due to all the interviews, teasers, trailers, clips, articles etc. I'm saying this because you also brought up the "Rihanna factor" which I think just added to the vitriol against the film and honestly has nothing to do with the final version of her character which you and I saw (unless you've seen the pre-dubbed version). I think I loved this performance because it reminded me of watching movies I knew nothing about - which nowadays pretty much mean classics - particularly being a teenager and discovering Grahame in "The Big Heat", "Crossfire" and of course "The Bad and the Beautiful", my body reacted to the same way to Cameron; it was a combination of lust, shock, desire and compassion which I don't get too often in any movie.

November 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJose

I haven't seen the film partially because I couldn't stop laughing when I read the script and have little interest with most of the people involved. But I almost want to see it to understand comparing Cameron Diaz to one of my greatest cinematic obsessions, Gloria Grahame.

November 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAngelica Jade Bastien

Jose, that's an interesting take on it.

November 26, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

THANK YOU. I absolutely hated every minute of this movie and still blame myself for not walking out in the first 10 minutes like my friend suggested - clearly I need to see a counselor. lol
BUT, Cameron Diaz' dedication to this role knocked my socks off. It's as if she was standing there fully aware of the atrocious dialogue she and her co-stars were spouting, defiant, committed to making it work no matter what. I wonder if all players involved in this movie were secretly hoping it would become this massive Oscar contender; I wouldn't be surprised if she, being the only figure without real Oscar clout, thought it was finally her chance to step up and be noticed in a serious role that was both dramatic and within her reach.
I continue to believe that, although her range is limited in some ways, she has created a niche and presence for herself on screen, and she can nail certain parts that no one else can, and that ought to be celebrated.

November 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterG.ShaQ

Jose, I agree about knowing too much about the films we love. If the final product works for you, who cares if Diaz was asked to re-dub her lines in post?

And this film and performance worked for me. I don't necessarily see the Tennessee Williams angle, but the Gloria Grahame comparison is certainly apt. It's refreshing to see a strong female villain who takes ownership of her ambition, her humanity, her sexuality. Malkina uses the weaknesses of the men around her to her advantage. She's a sociopath of the highest order. Her attempts at confession reveal that she knows the world Laura inhabits, for example, but couldn't possibly live in that world.

All in all, this is a fascinating and (I believe) misunderstood character/performance.

November 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterW.J.

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