(one installment in a quick series counting down from 50 to 26!)
JANE FONDA IN THE MORNING AFTER (1986)
The competition (Cliff: 5 for 5!):
Marlee Matlin in Children of a Lesser God
Sissy Spacek in Crimes of the Heart
Kathleen Turner in Peggy Sue Got Married
Sigourney Weaver in Aliens
While it’s easy to pinpoint the features in The Morning After that got Jane Fonda her seventh (and last to date) Oscar nomination–she plays a failed actress and black-out drunkard who wakes up framed for murder in the first five minutes–what’s harder to explain is the good movie that I sense lurking in there, and where it went. The Morning After had a lot going for it: Jane Fonda and Jeff Bridges starring, Sidney Lumet directing, and a refreshingly dropped-in-cold murder mystery. A friend alerted me in advance to some pretty obvious reshoots that take place in the end, an indication that the script had problems that the production just couldn’t solve. At the very least, the film has Lumet’s great sensibility for cities the way people live them–it’s the only film I’ve seen that actually follows characters from LAX up the highway stretch of La Cienega–and pair of absorbing scenes for Fonda in the dead man’s apartment, as an innocent woman trying to cover her tracks. Fonda herself does a fair job capturing the desperation of this never-was actress, digging into the same vulnerability of earlier roles in The China Syndrome and Coming Home–but she doesn’t really succeed in making the movie star disappear. Despite her pedigree and the baitiness of the role, Fonda owes her last laurel to a weak field for 1986, one that also let in offbeat performances from Kathleen Turner in Peggy Sue Got Married and, earning one of my proudest votes, Sigourney Weaver in Aliens.