My current Top 5

My current Top 5


Best Actress 1978: Jill Clayburgh in "An Unmarried Woman"

Jill Clayburgh received the Best Actress award in Cannes, critical praise and an Oscar nomination for her performance as Erica, a woman whose world is suddenly turned upside down when her husband divorces her.

The character of Erica must certainly have been a revelation in 1978. A woman beyond her 30s with a teenage daughter who learns that her live doesn’t end without a man. A woman who speaks about her first period with her psychiatrist. A woman who is confident enough to rediscover her own sexuality without having to defend herself.

In the role of Erica, Jill Clayburgh is smart, funny, sexy, strong, weak and most of all – very natural and always confident. Jill Clayburgh does not only play Erica with a lot of confidence but she also invests Erica with a very relaxed self-assuredness that is thrilling to watch. She never lets Erica be pushed around in any way but instead always shows her strength and her humorous nature even in the most serious situations. She is such a bubbly presence on the screen that everything besides her seems to fall into darkness.

Jill Clayburgh visible portrays that Erica is more than satisfied with her life. She is married to a seemingly great guy with whom she still has exciting sex but she also constantly holds her own against him and never lets him reduce her to a little wife. She also regularly meets with her girlfriends who always talk about love and relationships and Erica’s steady marriage seems to be one-of-a-kind among the group.

Already in the early scenes of An Unmarried Woman, Jill Clayburgh shows all the facets of Erica and establishes her as a self-assured woman who later must redefine her life. But Jill Clayburgh never ever makes Erica arrogant or dominant in her self-assuredness but instead shows that she is a woman who enjoys life and who knows who she is, what she can do and what she want.

Her most outstanding moment comes when all these believes are put to test when her husband walks with her along a street and suddenly stops and breaks into tears before he admits that he has an affair and wants to leave Erica. The look on her face while her husband is crying and saying how sorry he is (in a very unlikable way because it makes him look like he wants to tell her “Hey, I know, I am a bad guy and I feel terrible about it – so forgive me!”) is unforgettable – this confident woman who always believed in her marriage suddenly faces the ruins of her life. In this moment, Jill Clayburgh is incredibly powerful and incredibly subtle at the same time as only her eyes really show the devastation inside of her.

From that moment on, Erica is a different woman who is trying to go on with her life and see what else it has to offer. Jill Clayburgh certainly gives an amazing performance in an unlikely role. On paper, Erica is an interesting character but never outstanding enough to justify awards attention. But Jill Clayburgh turns her into one of the most fascinating female characters from the 70s. After her life has changed forever, Erica does not retreat but she finds herself again and also experiences a new sexuality with new partners.

In her scenes with her psychiatrist, Jill Clayburgh wonderfully shows Erica’s fears, her doubts, her drams and her hopes in a very captivating way. Her performance always remains as natural as it is impressive. And also when Erica starts a new relationship, Jill Clayburgh’s performance never stops to show Erica as a witty, independent woman who always knows what she wants even if she sometimes loses her way.

Not a lot of actresses could have turned Erica into such a rich and complex character and make An Unmarried Woman a very strong and absorbing movie. Jill Clayburgh’s performance is the only real strong ingredient An Unmarried Woman has but it so strong that it turns the movie into gold. Jill Clayburgh is able to make Erica’s journey so captivating because her character is so easy to recognize but at the same time she always shows new layers and a constant development in Erica. At the end of the movie, Erica is still the smart and funny woman she always was but she also is a new person and Jill Clayburgh is able to portray this without over- or underplaying it.

It’s a very unique performance of an ordinary, but also extra-ordinary woman that gets


Anonymous said...

Really revolutionary performance.

joe burns said...

Oh, great! I loved this performance! I hope she gets your vote.