30 October 2004 | philip-ct
This is proof enough that Julie Andrews can act; again, she rises above this uneven work ...
"I'm in this chair because I've got multiple sclerosis," thunders Julie Andrews (as Stephanie) to her shrink - rather a caricature - Max von Sydow. There is anger, there is bitterness, there is a resignation, there is a sense of loss, a sense of frustration and an understated (and unstated) acknowledgement that we all die alone...
In one line, Ms Andrews displays a depth to her dramatic performance not yet seen by viewers. I remember some rather disparaging comments being made about this casting (as well as for 84 Charing Cross Road, released in the same time frame as Duet for One). Most of these were aimed at the casting of Julie Andrews in a pivotal dramatic role.
Understandable, perhaps, as Julie Andrews *is* better known as a musical star (though cannot make any more musical films)and is seen as either Mary Poppins or Maria von Trapp. In reality, Ms Andrews has made more non-musical films than musical films.
Duet for One, though, was a departure from other roles: this film is kept alive only by the performance of Julie Andrews -- the other characters are merely 'supporting' characters. Julie Andrews does what she has done in previous musical films: she takes centre stage.
Her performance is absolutely brilliant -- she received two Golden Globe nominations as Lead Actress in one year (1986): For drama, 'Duet for One'; for comedy/musical, 'That's Life.'
I saw both in London in 1987. Julie Andrews, it seemed by overwhelming critical responses, had 'come of age'. Her performances were measured, realistic and gritty: and even with the subject matter of Duet for One, never diminishes into audience-pleasing wallowing sympathy.
I do think that Julie Andrews has been a much-cheated actress: audiences do not seem to *want* her to be more than a musical star. She has great comic timing (such a pity that there never was a vehicle to exploit this talent). In 'Duet for One', she convinces that she can act: she is in control, but a weighty script, uneven directing and blurred focus helped this movie to sink.
And again, an excellent performance is not seen by a large number of people. There is gritty, gutsy work and Julie Andrews *should* have been nominated for an Academy Award (rather than a strange nomination to Jane Fonda for 'The Morning After'.
This film is not good ('Hilary and Jacky' is much better) but the lead performance is outstanding. If you get a chance, see it. For Julie Andrews' work and some fine classical music, outstandingly weaved into the soundtrack in background and foreground, it's stunning.
And there are interesting supporting cast vignettes too, notably those of Liam Neeson and Cathryn Harrison.
A great pity that this film has diluted its original play so much, but it's still worth seeing.