Wednesday, September 13, 2017


Karen Allen is one of my dearest and closest and best friends going back to before she even began acting as a young woman. Best known for her role as Marion Ravenwood in RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, she has been giving Oscar-worthy performances in films ever since that one, always consistent in breaking down the usual two dimensional female stereotypes in whatever role she's been given, whether leading roles (STARMAN) or cameos (SHOOT THE MOON), as she did in RAIDERS.

But in recent years, as she entered her fifties, and now sixties, the indie movies she's given her best performances in haven't gotten the kinds of exposure that might lead to a nomination. Like 2004's POSTER BOY, where she played an alcoholic, ex-beauty queen, Southern Senator's Southern trophy wife (at the screening I attended at The Tribeca Film Festival, after her first scene the audience stood up to give her screen presence a standing ovation before the film had hardly begun!), or the working-class wives and mothers in 2010's WHITE IRISH DRINKERS and 2015's BAD HURT. Oscar-worthy performances all.

Now here comes her latest, and this time the lead starring role is hers, playing the writer Joan Anderson, whose book the screenplay is based on, about a middle-aged woman leaving her marriage to discover who she might be at this stage of her life. She gives, to my taste, another Oscar-worthy performance, though it is slightly hampered by first-time director Alexander Janko's commonplace first-time-director indulgences and miscalculations [like inconsistencies in the script as shot etc.].

Janko is best known as a film score orchestrator and sometime composer (MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING for instance), and he takes on too much in A YEAR BY THE SEA as director, screenwriter, composer of the score, and one of the producers. He is obviously well-intentioned but is still a male controlling most of the creative aspects of making a film about a woman.

Though the editing could be tighter, the cast is terrific (but I would have approached the role of Karen's character's husband, played by the playwright/actor Michael Cristofer, much differently, given the chance), the lingering shots of the New England landscapes often gorgeous, and many many individual scenes could be used as examples for screen acting and writing classes.

If you want to support an "older woman" actor [i.e. a category of movie actor that usually gets ignored except for one or two famous ones like Meryl Streep], whose work has been neglected by the major awards (though she's won some festivals' "Best Actor" awards), please go see A YEAR BY THE SEA while it is still in theaters to help convince the distributors to get it out to a wider audience and give Karen a chance to get the kind of attention for her screen work that she's so long deserved.

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