1990 was the year in which I saw the least amount of movies in theaters. I was overseas and when I returned I devoured everything. I don't recommend missing an entire year of cinema but I also can't deny that it's fun to catch up in massive marathons. My favorite shiny new plaything that year turned out to be Annette Bening. She had appeared in two movies before her breakthrough (The Great Outdoors and Valmont, the latter of which was barely released) but I wasn't familiar with her. In 1990 she ascended. She swiped a scene wholesale from Meryl Streep in Postcards from the Edge (in a way we didn't see again for another 18 years when Viola Davis rationalized away her son in Doubt) and sparkled and teased as Myra Langtry in The Grifters. She deservedly won her first Oscar nomination but the bid was doomed. "You in danger, girl" Ghost was a juggernaut and Whoopi Goldberg was impossible to deny..
Director Stephen Frears, then at his creative peak hot off Dangerous Liaisons, handed Bening The Grifter's pivotal centerpiece. It's not one scene exactly nor an unbroken monologue but a shifting series of impressions and exchanges in which Myra reveals her past (in voiceover flashback) and begins to rope in her future, altering the game board on which mother and son con artists Roy and Lily Dillon play (John Cusack and Anjelica Huston, the latter giving a mammoth Oscar-worthy performance.)
After Myra witnesses her boyfriend Roy "working the tat on those sailor boys" she drops enough strange lingo to choke a lesser actress in an effort to rustle his cautious feathers and reveal himself.
Oh come on, Roy. 'The tat,' what you do for a living.❞