It’s not easy to stand out in an ensemble movie but Cloris Leachman left an unforgettable impression with her heartbreaking performance as Ruth Popper, the sad and neglected wife of the local football coach (who prefers to spend his time with his boys from the team) and who starts an affair with the much younger Sonny, the main character of The Last Picture Show.
Cloris Leachman is one of those women who can tell the whole story of their life with her face. When she opens her door and Sonny tells her that he will be driving her and not her husband, she makes it clear that this is no surprise for her, just another humiliation. And when she breaks down at the kitchen table, it’s an incredibly moving moment, especially when she sees that Sonny tries to cheer up – that’s probably the first time in years someone cares about her.
Cloris Leachman also achieves a very believable and captivating relationship with Timothy Bottoms – it never seems awkward to see the two together, they have a sweet chemistry and they simply work.
Cloris Leachman also does a great job when her character blossoms up – she doesn’t overdo it, she’s not an ugly duckling who turns into a beautiful swan, she’s not one of the girls from those Teenie-movies who takes off her glasses and becomes the hottest girl in school. She simply becomes more relaxed, more open, her happiness shows on her face, but that inner beauty is not enough for a young man like Sonny and so it’s no surprise when he leaves her.
With only a handful of scenes Cloris Leachman has shown how her character changed from sad and lonely to loving and sweet and has made the viewer care about her. Even when she walks out of the hospital (after Sonny didn’t want to see her), she beaks your heart despite the fact that you don’t see her because she is shot from a long distance.
And then it all comes to her final scene – one the greatest scenes ever when all her anger, all her frustration and all her unhappiness that has build up inside her for years and years break out and instead of accepting her fate, she shouts what she always wanted to say. It’s a chilling scene that should be studied in acting classes. From her loud moments (‘Three months I’ve been apologizing…’) she goes to heartbreaking quiet moments (‘See? You shouldn’t have come here’) to an incredibly moving finale (‘Never you mind, honey. Never you mind…’).
An amazing and unforgettable performance.