Mercedes Ruehl plays Anne as a down-to-earth person. She knows where she stands in life, she knows that her life is far from perfect but she accepts it and makes the best out of it. The cheerful character of Anne combined with the fact that she is living with an alcoholic who also suffers from an incident in his past allows Mercedes Ruehl to cover a wide range or comedic and dramatic acting and she perfectly succeeds in both. What’s so admirable about her work is the fact that she basically came up with the comedy herself – written written on paper her role could be seen as very straight character and a love interest (like Jessica Lange in Tootsie), but instead of playing the character that way she goes the comedy route and gets laughs out of every possible situation by her line-delivery, her acting and her looks. She uses an acting style that is similar to that of Helen Hunt – both actresses like to move their head in a certain way or give a certain look at the right moment. It may sometimes be seen as slightly exaggerated but if the actresses does it right, then it can be golden – and Mercedes Ruehl gets it right.
On the drama side, Mercedes Ruehl beautifully shows that living with a man like Jack is no easy feat since he does not always treat Anne the way she deserves it. Here, Mercedes Ruehl finds the perfect balance to show how much Anne is suffering from his behavior but how much she loves him, too, and this way makes the whole relationship very believable. When one night Jack doesn’t show up and Anne sits alone at her table, Mercedes Ruehl delivers a great little monologue, telling an imaginary Jack ‘I do not need this!’, giving a perfect example of a situation surely everybody has encountered already: always having so much to say when the person you want to say it to is not there.
But her most impressive scene is easily her break-up with Jack, shot almost in one take. She goes from happy to angry when she suddenly realizes that now, after having brought his personal problems behind him, Jack wants to leave her. Full of frustrations, she tells him ‘If you’re gonna hurt me, hurt me now!’ and when Jack tells her that they both got something out of their relationship, she shouts at him ‘What did I get? What did I get? What did I get that I couldn’t have gotten from any guy with no name any night of the week? Do you think your company is such a treat? Your mood, your pain, your problems? You think this has been entertaining for me?’ It’s an outstanding scene and Mercedes Ruehl perfectly shows a woman who has done everything for a guy who doesn’t seem to be worth it.
So, it’s a perfect mix of comedy and drama and Mercedes Ruehl certainly deserved that Oscar!