Photo Credit: Sony Pictures Classics
The sexiest performance hands-down of 2009 is that of Helen Mirren, 64. She’s still got it going on! And she could teach younger women a thing or 10.
In The Last Station, which is open in limited release, we get the rare movie about a lengthy marriage -- that of War and Peace writer Leo Tolstoy (Christopher Plummer, who turns 80 this month) and his wife of 48 years, Countess Sofya (Helen Mirren). It’s 1910 and the countess, who had 13 children with her husband, is feeling their connection of the mind, body and heart slipping away, a situation that comes to a head as her famous husband considers rewriting his will to his family’s detriment.
Mirren, who won an Oscar playing Queen Elizabeth II in 2006's The Queen, shows so many colors in this performance, exercises so many muscles bicep big and eyelid small, that it should be required watching in film schools. Not only is there not a misplaced movement, as she modulates from quiet contemplation to full-out china-smashing rages, there isn’t a moment that rings false, or stagey, or “Hey, look at me, Oscar.”
The crowning glory is a scene in which Sofya lures her husband into her big, comfy bed. This is a seduction that doesn’t emanate from two buff bodies barreling at each other like runaway locomotives (say, Brangelina in Mr. and Mrs. Smith). Tolstoy is reticent, he’s old, he’s mistrustful -- and he’s been there countless times. He’s more than a little sick of Sofya’s manipulations. How hard it is to start the fires back up in a marriage when they’ve gone cold.
And, yet, Mirren as Sofya shows us how it is done. She lies in the middle of the bed, hair brushed and down, arms bare, and she goes to work, lightly but with complete purpose. She consciously sets aside her bitterness and fears, as one would put one’s glasses on the bedside table. And then she reminds her husband of their times together. She smiles and laughs. She declares that she still finds him attractive. He is the man and she is the woman. She calls him her cock (in the classic barnyard sense), and she’s his little chicken – she clucks, he crows – and she knows she’s got him. In that moment, we see them both young and full of desire despite the fact that it's months before his death. Not only is it an amazingly sexy moment, it’s an undeniably true one. How do we rekindle passion? Ask Helen.
PLUS: Better with Age: Our Favorite Actresses Over 40
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