Thursday, December 23, 2010

I Heart Melissa Leo

In the opening moments of the 2008 drama Frozen River, the camera lingers on the face of its lead character played by Melissa Leo. In this brief, intimate moment we come to an understanding about this person--she is tired, worn-down, frightened, worried, emotional and angry. No words are said as none are needed, Leo tells us everything we need to know simply by showing us her face. And what a glorious face it is too--the face of a 50 year old woman who is also a great actress. What a novel concept!

In this day and age of surgeries, chemical injections and other medical attacks on aging that turns people into deformed mutants rather than making them look younger, Leo appears to have have rejected that path. Who ever truly knows though, unless the person has gone full-freakshow with their faces? The best thing about this for Leo--and other actors who are worried about the tolling bell of getting older--is that her career has never been better. She got a deserved best actress nod for Frozen River and has been a busy, busy performer of late among the cast of recent films such as Conviction, The Fighter and a prominent place on the acclaimed HBO series Treme.

I first became a fan of Leo's in 1993 when she took on the role of Kay Howard, a tough-talking detective in an all-male world on the wonderful television series Homicide: Life on the Street. There were some powerhouse actors on Homicide (Andre Braugher, Ned Beatty, Yaphet Kotto among others) and Leo more than held her own as Howard was a feisty, independent, complicated, well-thought out character. After the show ended, Leo went into bit-part purgatory before emerging from the wilderness with the gritty, low-budget Frozen River. I hope Leo keeps getting these good roles too for evidence that not every woman (or man) of a certain age doesn't have to carve up their face into some kind of mysterious plasticine version of the way they think they look.

2 comments:

larry said...

This does not look like the same person from "the Fighter." That woman looked like Carmela Soprano squared. I agree with you. What an actress.

Joshua Blevins Peck said...

Leo can do anything she wants and has that rare ability to make herself appear wildly different from role to role. She better get another nomination for supporting actress in THE FIGHTER!