Friday, July 11, 2008

Where Have You Gone, Mastrantonio?

When my mom arrived for a visit last week, one of the first things she requested was that I help her update her iPod. She didn’t need assistance synchronizing her Apple device – she has that part down. She wanted new music, which was convenient because back in May I’d been at a loss for gift ideas and so had promised to buy her a Mother’s Day present during her visit. That’s how it came to be that mother and son went CD shopping last weekend.

I picked out a few things I thought she’d enjoy (the Robert Plant/Alison Krauss album) and she picked out a few things on her own (Kelly Clarkson, Mom? Really?). The latter bunch included a CD of movie tunes by guitarist John Williams (not to be confused with composer John Williams). Before my mom left town, I uploaded the Williams album to my iTunes library and have listened to it here and there since. As movie music tributes go, it’s a hit-and-miss effort: for example, Williams’ adaptations of the lyric-free themes from The Mission and Schindler’s List go over wonderfully, but his versions of “Kiss From A Rose” (Batman Forever) and “Everything I Do” (Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves) make me feel like I’m stuck in an elevator. Not that it keeps me from listening.

Of course, unless I’m deeply immersed in a project, it’s impossible for me to listen to movie music without at some point reflecting on the movie itself. And that’s how it came to be this week that I’ve been thinking of Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, who in Robin Hood made for a sweet if not necessarily typical Marian.

If Mastrantonio’s IMBb bio can be trusted, she wasn’t the first choice for the role. The princess bride herself, Robin Wright Penn, was set to play another object of man-in-tights affection until pregnancy made her unavailable and Mastrantonio stepped in. At the time, she was a natural choice. Coming off her Oscar nomination for The Color Of Money (1986), Mastrantonio was hard to miss in those days: The Abyss (1989), Robin Hood (1991), Class Action (1991) and Consenting Adults (1992) came out one after another. These days, though, Mastrantonio is virtually impossible to find.

I see from her filmography that she’s done some TV and had some otherwise small parts of late, but Mastrantonio hasn’t been any kind of presence in a major movie since 2000’s The Perfect Storm. Her last role of substance that I’ve seen came in 1999’s Limbo, in which she plays a single mom adrift in Alaska trying to make a living with her singing career. It’s a measured performance and yet an especially vulnerable one, and to see it is to remember why we’re better off with Mastrantonio than without her. (My favorite Mastrantonio performance remains her turn opposite Ed Harris in The Abyss – a movie you might need to watch again in order to accurately remember the raw power of its love story.)

So today I’m hoping that Mastrantonio makes a comeback, even a modest one. And while I’m at the wishing well, here a few other actresses who I’ve loved in one movie or another only to have them leave me.

Iben Hjejle
In High Fidelity she’s sexy, spunky and sensible. And if Rob Gordon (John Cusack) can sleep around and win back Laura, I think we Americans are worthy a little more Hjejle in our lives. Instead the actress is shacking up with Ian/Ray – by which I mean her native Denmark. What a shame.

There’s a girl-next-door attractiveness to Hjejle that’s becoming harder to find in Hollywood these days. Now if only she could be offered a role tempting enough to bring her back to the American big screen.

Emily Lloyd
A River Runs Through It is one of those movies that’s perfect to have on in the background on a lazy Sunday afternoon, providing ample opportunity to stop in front of the TV every now and then to bask in its warmth. I can’t remember the last time I watched the movie start to finish, but there’s one scene I never miss: the moment when Norman Maclean (Craig Sheffer) tells his budding love interest, Jesse Burns (Lloyd), about his job offer at the University of Chicago.

“So what do you think?” Norman asks. “What do I think?” Jesse replies. “I think it’s the berries!”

To this day I have no idea where that expression comes from. What I do know is that it’s a treat to watch the way Lloyd handles the scene as Norman declares his affection for Jesse and her expression changes from one of supportive happiness to one bursting with the inner glow of love.

Have you seen Lloyd since? I haven’t.

Melora Walters
Of all the characters we meet in Magnolia, none of them are as elusive as Walters’ Claudia, a victim of abuse and an abuser of drugs. Manic and tragically insecure, Claudia is as scattered as autumn leaves in the wind. She’s so emotionally cracked, in fact, that I can hardly imagine Walters playing someone self-assured and composed. Which is precisely why I’d love to see it.

Julia Ormond
I’m hardly the first person to marvel over Ormond’s odd career. After her enchanting and heartfelt coming-out as the only woman fit for three brothers in Legends Of The Fall, Ormand found herself with starring roles in lesser films like Sabrina and First Knight. After that she vanished like lost luggage.

I see from her IMDb profile that she’s in Kit Kittredge: An American Girl, which I have no intention of watching, and she also appears to have a significant part opposite Brad Pitt again in The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button, set for later this year. So perhaps things are turning around. Maybe at least one of my wishes will come true. Just not quickly enough for my liking.

Now I kick it to you, Cooler readers: Care to name any actresses you haven’t seen in far too long?


Johnny B said...

You beat me to Emily Lloyd; seemed like she had all the promise in the world for a while there, but something, heaven knows what, derailed her career.

Samantha Mathis comes to mind...

hokahey said...

Remember Mia Sara? She played Ferris Bueller's preppie girlfriend Sloan in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," and ... uh, I'll never forget her. She virtually disappeared from the big screen and did roles in television episodes and made-for-TV movies. I was surprised she couldn't make it bigger in the decade of the classic teen flicks.

Johnny B said...

Another occurred to me yesterday- Moira Kelly.

Jason Bellamy said...

Good calls, gents.

Moira Kelly: Gosh, I forgot she even existed. Though some of that is by choice -- she was in the first or second season of "The West Wing" and was painful.