Sunday, March 1, 2009

Short Rants on Gaby- A True Story

In all honesty, there were only two reasons why I decided to sit down and watch Gaby- A True Story (Luis Mandoki, 1987). The first was, obviously, for Norma Aleandro's Best Supporting Actress nomination (since I have an irrational need to see all of the major nominees I can get my hands on). Secondly, I wanted to see what Bergman-favorite Liv Ullmann was doing in a film with a plot straight out of an 80's, made-for-TV movie of the week: a child, Gaby, is born with cerebral palsy so severe she can't speak and only has mobility in her left foot and, with the help of her supportive parents and a silent but dedicated nurse, she overcomes adversity by working her way through college. It's exactly the type of disposable, handicapped-people-are-human-beings-too film the Academy ate up in the 80's, but what sets it apart from something like Children of a Lesser God is that they're is actual artistry and style in the filmmaking technique instead of relying of cheap melodrama and "inspirational" breakthrough moments. Thanks to cinematographer Lajos Koltai's bleak, cold, almost impenetrable camerawork, the film feels closer to Ingmar Bergman than anything you would see done on a Lifetime movie. There's also a sex scene in the movie that could have been gratuitous in the extreme, but, with Koltai's camera, manages to look beautiful and, dare I say it, tasteful (well, as tasteful as seeing two teens with cerebral palsy going at it while flopping around on the floor like fish on dry land can be). The acting all around wasn't nearly as atrocious as it could have been. Liv Ullmann, in particular, rises above the material and clichés of the fighting mother stereotype we've come to expect from films like this. Then again, would you expect anything less from the same woman who did Cries and Whispers and Persona? Norma Aleandro was quite good as well. She may have spent just a tad too much time staring off into the distance at just the right angle for the camera to catch her expression, but that face is fascinating to look at so I can't really begrudge her that. B-

P.S. Throughout the movie, I kept wondering where I had seen Rachel Levin, the woman who played Gaby, before and after a quick search on IMDb, I discovered that under the name Rachel Chagall, she was Val on The Nanny:

Oh my God, I used to love that show when I was a kid. Hell, I still do. Who knew that the same woman who played the featherbrained Val opposite Fran Drescher was also in a movie with Liv Ullmann? That blows my mind.

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