20 October 2003 | petershelleyau
her nightmare begins
One of the ironies of the attack on Theresa Saldana is that it gave her a starring role in a movie, in this made for TV biography, that she might otherwise may never have had.
Given the troubling genre of an actress playing herself (is this acting or being?), Saldana invests her "character" with admirable presence. Although director Karen Arthur never shows Theresa as conventionally attractive (she is often lit to resemble a vampire), her strange face looks different each time we see her, which adds more interest to the train wreck appeal of the situation. I could have done without the tiresome schematic of her wardrobe, where before the attack she is dressed in virginal colors, and on the day she wears a dark blue sailor suit, and her singing the song Prodigal Child is equally obvious. The whimpers Saldana makes after she is stabbed is almost parodied in the whimpers of a puppy she is given, however the silent acting she does in reaction to another hospitalised victim is most effective. She gets to be occasionally funny eg to her father "Your hair turned grey in two weeks and you tell me don't worry", but her climactic speech for her Victims for Victims support group lacks the control of a professional actress. One can defend this apparent amateurishness as being her personal reaction, whereby technique is abandoned, however it reads more as the limitations of her skill.
The treatment by Arthur Heinemann is weak in establishing the context of Saldana's career, which would helps balance the media attention she receives. She has a poster for Raging Bull in her house, and we are told she receives flowers and cards from directors and actors around the world when she is hospitalised, however before the attack we are shown that she still attends classes. The most intriguing character, the stabber Arthur Richard Jackson (Philip English) is only a cypher and a plot mechanism, and we get ludicrous touches like her husband being a counsellor who is distracted at work, who also chooses to fight Jackson at the crime scene, rather than go to the hospital with his wife. (Adrian Zmed's blah performance as Fred doesn't help). There are some cliches eg "It's not just the pain. It's what it's doing to her inside", a whorey idea of the nurse who hides her empathy behind bureaucratic control, but also a rationale explaination for Theresa's love of stuffed animals.
Although some of Arthur's setups are painfully bad, she does present the shocking indifference of people when Saldana is attacked in daylight (even given this occurs in Hollywood), an acceptable use of subjective camera, and the gothic horror of Theresa's injuries being photographed by the police, complete with her JonBenet kewpie hairstyle.