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Weaver’s Winners

February 15, 2010

by John Farr

A look at three of Sigourney Weaver’s winning performances.

Alien (1979)


First of a long series, Scott’s film succeeds best at mixing genuine chills with a semblance of character development and solid ensemble playing. We first get acquainted with the diverse team manning spaceship “Nostromo”, before all hell breaks loose. It seems a nasty alien creature has been ingested inside one of the crew, and when it gets out, the group is trapped in their vessel like the proverbial sardines in a can.


Trim little classic has a skin-crawling immediacy, as director Scott builds a sense of impending danger, followed by moments of heightened suspense and terror once this nightmarish genie escapes from its bottle. Weaver makes a perfect feminist hero, ably supported by Tom Skerritt, Yaphet Kotto, Harry Dean Stanton, John Hurt, and Ian Holm. Sci-fi that favors mood and substance over dazzle.

The Year of Living Dangerously (1982)


In 1965, Australian reporter Guy Hamilton arrives in Indonesia to track the turbulent Sukarno regime. There he meets half-Chinese news photographer Billy Kwan (Hunt), who quickly gets him acclimated to the people, place and politics. Billy then introduces Guy to Jill (Weaver), a British embassy attaché, and romantic sparks fly. But Guy is there to uncover the next big story, and a country on the brink of revolution is no place to fall in love.


Weir’s romantic thriller is a tense, colorful ride. The director heightens our awareness of impending societal disruption, keeping us continually on edge. Gibson has never been more magnetic as Guy, and the captivating Weaver exudes sensuality and mystery. Yet actress Hunt is the revelation in the gender-bending role of Billy — it won her an Oscar.

The Ice Storm (1997)


Set in 1973, this pungent, disturbing tale of suburban malaise concerns the emotionally frigid relations between two families in the affluent town of New Canaan, Connecticut. Returning from his Manhattan prep school for Thanksgiving, 16-year-old Paul Hood (Tobey Maguire) is greeted at the train station by his remote father, Ben (Kevin Kline), and unsmiling mother, Elena (Joan Allen), as well as his Watergate-obsessed younger sister, Wendy (Christina Ricci). Unbeknownst to Elena, Ben is carrying on a torrid affair with neighbor Janey Carver (Weaver), while Janey’s spacey son Mikey (Elijah Wood) has been targeted for sexual experimentation by Wendy. Paul’s got issues of his own, too, including a crush on a priggish socialite (Katie Holmes). Unhappiness and alienation seems to be everyone’s lot, at least until the weather breaks…


Based on Rick Moody’s novel, this perceptive adaptation by Ang Lee (“Brokeback Mountain”) and screenwriter James Schamus effectively recaptures the bad hangover of the sixties drug-and-sex revolution, most emblematically at a discomfiting spouse-swapping “key party” that ends rather bitterly. Veterans Kline, Allen and Weaver are all first rate, but the young Maguire, Ricci, and Wood also hold their own, touching your heart with a coming-of-age awkwardness that sadly reflects their parents’ own disillusionment and inner gloom.

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