Saturday, July 30, 2011

Deborah Kerr in "Separate Tables"

Deborah Kerr received her fifth Oscar nomination for playing Sibyl Railton-Bell in Separate Tables.

Separate Tables could easily be all over the place, dry, uninvolved, but instead it is a terrific, even wonderfully entertaining movie about discovery, romance, and betrayal at a sea-side English hotel. The film is luminous because it feels like the breeze that continually flows through the hotel, it's never stuffy and always feels fresh. It's an ensemble piece where all the actors have the chance to show something of their character.

Deborah Kerr plays Sibyl Railton-Bell, the repressed, virginal and incredibly depressed daughter of a fancy domineering woman. Deborah Kerr has never been an actress who has been able to impress me, even in her fanatical turn in Black Narcissus, she is way too controlled for her own good. Here she plays the always interesting and even showy role of an extremely lonely spinster who is tries to reach out to an odd major played by David Niven. Her mother Gladys Cooper warns him to stay away and tries to smear his reputation.

As with every Deborah Kerr, I have found to expect either shrill overacting or bad underacting - here she perhaps go her further then ever at overplaying constantly. We know Sibyl is a repressed character and doesn't know exactly how to handle herself in public, but Kerr almost constantly makes her edgy, like she's about to jump up and down and start crying. This type of character (repressed and lonely spinster) is appealing to me, but it's Deborah Kerr who makes her too much to handle. While all the other actors have quite impressive scenes that show off their abilities, Kerr spoils hers by never ringing true. I really don't know overall what to make of it, as Kerr never impresses me, but here it's sort of just pathetic that something didn't work out.


Louis Morgan said...

I agree again. Kerr frankly always seems to try to hard to be emotional.

dinasztie said...

I liked her more but she was a bit disappointing.