Friday, January 11, 2013

31 Performances Ripe for Rediscovery (2) Melora Walters in MAGNOLIA (1999)

"Now that I've met you, would you object to never seeing me again?"

Paul Thomas Anderson's sprawling Magnolia contains career best performances from a number of multi-award winning performers, superstars and legendary actors but the absolute best performance in the film is given by a virtually unknown actress who was probably best known upon the film's releases in 1999 for a Seinfeld episode she had appeared in several years earlier.  

Born in Saudi Arabia, raised mostly in Holland, Melora Walters was nearing her fortieth birthday when she shot Magnolia, the third film she would make for Paul Thomas Anderson.  Her performance, as the abuse survivor Claudia Wilson Gator, in Magnolia remains one of the most bravest and devastating I have ever seen.  While Walters had been terrific in Anderson's Boogie Nights, there was really nothing in her filmography that could have suggested just how unbelievably great she could be...but she really is beyond great in Magnolia.  It's one of those rare performances that has the ability to change a viewer and just thinking about her work in the film chokes me up.  

Melora Walters deserved every acting award and kudo imaginable for Magnolia but her work in the film was overshadowed by her more famous cast members.  Anderson's film should have led to more great roles for the talented Walters but, sadly, it wasn't meant to be and her work since has mostly been in television with sporadic small film roles appearing in between (like Cold Mountain).  In 2011 Melora released a book of poetry entitled Sonnets and Failures.  Intriguingly her voice was used earlier this year in Anderson's The Master, a fact that has many of us hoping that the two might eventually work together.   

Even if Melora Walters is never again granted a role as rich and rewarding as Claudia in Magnolia, she will always have this haunting final moment...a glorious closing shot that has the kind of impact most of our most legendary actors spend a lifetime searching for.

-Jeremy Richey, 2013-

1 comment:

Sheila O'Malley said...

Yes. A great performance, difficult to watch - but searingly truthful. That date scene with Reilly never fails to choke me up - and that last moment ... straight into the camera ... breathtaking. PTA clearly loved her.