Anjelica Huston took home the Oscar and most critics award for her scene-steeling turn as Maerose Prizzi, the fallen daughter of the Prizzi-family.
Considering how popular Prizzi’s Honor was among the members of the Academy, it can’t be a surprise that they wanted to give it an award in at least one category – and Anjelica Huston was certainly the easiest chance to do that. Apart from her dominance in the race, hers is also the kind of performance that steals the show without even trying. But for me, the reason that Anjelica Huston was able to do that is not because her acting is on such a high level but rather because Prizzi’s Honor, like The Accidental Tourist, is a rather lifeless and dated movie with a cast that certainly gave its best but failed to bring the material to a really intriguing level. So, Anjelica Huston was able to use her strong screen presence and her unforgettable talent for accents to leave the greatest impression even though her role and her performance aren’t really that great.
The problem I have with this performance is similar to the one I have with Geena Davis – Anjelica Huston is not able to breath life into her lifeless movie. She becomes the center of attention whenever she appears but she does not really improve what she is given. Maybe if her role had been a bit larger, she might have been able to do more but the way it is, her turn as the young woman who secretly pulls the strings in the background feels rather underdeveloped and negligible at times.
Still, what works in her favor is that it is the fact that Maerose Prizzi is a very showy role and that Anjelica Huston has an undeniable screen presence. Even Jack Nicholson disappears next to her. Her breakdown at the beginning or her seduction of Charlie later in her apartment are very strong moments and Anjelica Huston proves that her voice is her biggest asset – if she didn’t deliver her lines so deliciously calculated and with that wonderful accent, her performance would only be half as good. Who can forget the delivery of ‘Oh, he had use for me, Pappa. He came to my apartment the other night…and he forced himself on me…and he did it to me. Yeah, Pappa, he screwed me, three times, maybe four, I can’t remember…you should see the size of him!’ Again, this moment would only be half as good if it wasn’t for this accent!
So, Anjelica Huston shines whenever she is on the screen and even though she doesn’t really lift her material to a higher level she still manages to impress easily.