My current Top 5

My current Top 5


Number 30: Dianne Wiest as Helen Sinclair in "Bullets over Broadway" (Best Supporting Actress Ranking)

I know, everyone is supposed to bow to Dianne Wiest’s celebrated turn as alcoholic Broadway diva Helen Sinclair in Woody Allen’s Bullets over Broadway. She’s usually considered one of the most deserving winners this category has ever seen and so it may come as a surprise that she is ‘only’ my number 30 – but while I also love and respect this performance, my love and respect has never gone so far as that of most other people. Personally, I prefer Jennifer Tilly and Tracy Ullman to Dianne Wiest but it’s easy to see why her performance was such a sensation in 1994 and still is today.

In a movie that tries to be such as theatrical as the world it presents, Dianne Wiest gives a very theatrical and calculated performance in which every gesture and every line delivery seem to be prepared to the smallest detail. All this works very well and from a technical point of view, Dianne Wiest is truly flawless. Unlike Mary Astor in The Great Lie, she achieved to become a true diva in every sense of the word, self-assured, eccentric, neurotic, strong but also insecure. The way she walks and holds her cigarette, the ways she always talks with such an intense voice as if she is constantly onstage – everything works very well and results in a well-crafted, intelligent performance. Dianne Wiest uses her voice in the most effective way, shouting orders in the deepest tone or charming David with a bird-like whisper. Sometimes I feel that her performance is too calculated and controlled – the character of Helen Sinclair often fails to fascinate me as much as she should because there is something too unnatural in Dianne Wiest’s work. Dianne Wiest also suffers from the fact that Helen Sinclair is a very one-dimensional character – almost every scene with her is the same, she is either talking about the script or talking about David’s future.

Those complaints are also the reason why Dianne Wiest never reaches a higher position in my ranking (the last time I did it, she had a similar position). But the fact that she did manage to make it up to number 30 shows more than enough that, even though there might be some problems, her performance is still extremely memorable, most of all because of Dianne Wiest’s technical skills and her ability to let Woody Allen’s often too contrived dialogue come alive in her mouth.

And even though I don’t think that this performance is truly funny, she does have some amusing moments, like when she is seducing David by showing him her favorite spot in the park and she dramatically declares ‘It’s magical. It’s magical.’ Or when she is in the theater the first time and tells that she is late because ‘my pedicurist had a stroke.’ And of course, then there is her unforgettable ‘Don’t speak’ – again, those scenes are extremely calculated but Dianne Wiest somehow makes them work and turns them into some of the most unforgettable movie moments ever.  

Her overall best moment has to be this: ‘You stand on the brink of greatness. The world will open to you like an oyster. No,  no not like an oyster. The world will open to you like a magnificent vagina…Oh the train is moving so fast! Oh, David it’s so fast! Oh hold me, hold me! No, no, don’t speak! No, don’t speak!’

So, I might not love it as much as most others do but I, too, appreciate and admire the work by Dianne Wiest.

1 comment:

Louis Morgan said...

I found her quite enjoyable I guess I would put her higher.