Sunday, July 27, 2008

I Love Jennifer Jason Leigh's Work: Georgia

In the movie, "Georgia", Jennifer Jason Leigh is not Georgia. Mare Winningham is Georgia. Georgia ad Leigh's charater, Sadie, are sisters and their lives have gone in opposite directions.

Georgia plays and sings folk music. She's hugely successful. She's composed, settled into family life on the farm that had been her parents'. She is the picture of serenity. Even when she performs, it seems that a Goddess of Calm as descended upon her.

I don't know what spirit descended upon Sadie, but it's a restless one. Sadie also performs music, for as long as she can stay with a group, before she either leaves it or is kicked out. Sadie loves blues and grungy rock and roll and gets by with her talent.

Sadie is a drunk and drug addict. You might know someone like Sadie: bravado, brashness, and cockiness mask deep fear and her profoundly felt inadequacy. Sadie's music "career" serves as an emblem for her inner life. In both, she desperately desires Georgia's approval, aspires to be as accomplished as Georgia. She fails. Miserably. Painfully. So she rips into Georgia, overtly and covertly, upsetting what is peaceful in her sister's life, and it's this conflict the movie explores.

Jason Jennifer Leigh's portrayal of Sadie is astonishing. It's as if Sadie is the subject of a documentary film. It's as if Leigh's life has been possessed by demons and rocked by self-abuse and she brought it to life in Sadie. But, Leigh's life has not been at all like Sadie's.

Through rigorous study and imaginative prowess Leigh transforms her body into Sadie's, learns her speech patterns and discovers Sadie's mannerisms. It's as if she's given birth within herself to Sadie.

It's painful.

Sadie longs for her sister's acceptance; she longs for peace within herself; she longs to be delivered from herself. The arc of the film's narrative unfolds Sadie's erratic plunges into despair, cruelty, embarrassment and her promising moments of clarity, love, and dignity.

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