Saturday, October 15, 2022

Recasting 1992 (supporting): "Damage"

I wasn't necessarily expecting that I'd be choosing two Miranda Richardson roles within five years for this project, but here we are. For a long time, I think I remembered the trailer (we called them previews back then) for 1992's psychological thriller Damage more than I did the film itself. I watched parts of it on fuzzy HBO when I was probably 13, thinking it was mostly just a guy and lady doing it a lot. It seemed the type of movie you'd see on late night Cinemax than one that earns BAFTA and Academy Award-nominations. I probably should've watched more closely. 

Having subsequently seen it a couple more times as an adult, I'm fully able to appreciate the film's prowess. Quick sidebar, I have to make a brief mention of how "1992" this movie is. The wardrobe and styling are very easy to date, but very chic at the same time. Binoche in particular is stunning in her slim black frocks and severe hair. Anyway, directed by Louis Malle (Atlantic City), the film follows Stephen, a physician-turned-politician (Jeremy Irons) who becomes involved in a lurid affair with his son Martyn's (Rupert Graves) girlfriend, Anna (Juliette Binoche). Miranda Richardson portrays Stephen's wife, Ingrid, who identifies something suspicious about Anna. When Anna and Martyn decide to get engaged, Anna's mother joins in the preparation and spots signs of the affair between Stephen and Anna. Stephen plans to end the relationship, but he hooks up with Anna again at an apartment. Martyn happens upon them and in shock, backs up over a railing and plummets to his death. 

It's in the aftermath of Martyn's death that we really get to see the acting chops of Miranda Richardson. Had it not been for this one scene, she (or likely any other actor in the role) would've been very unlikely to receive award recognition of any kind:

"The pain was unbearable. I was beating myself." Whoa. She's not only lost her son, but as a result of her husband's infidelity with her son's fiancĂ©e. Ingrid is from a prominent family and her husband is a public figure. It's an incredible betrayal. It's gripping how she so confidently conveys to her husband that he should've killed himself when he first realized he couldn't stop himself so that she could have at least mourned. He's taken that from her as well. The look on Richardson's face when she drops to her knees and clenches her fists is one of the most powerful moments of acting out a devastating human experience that I can recall ever seeing onscreen. Her eyes are almost wild...behind a haze of despair that may be singular to mothers who've lost their children. Well done. 

Let's switch gears for a second and address the age issue. Rupert Graves was born when Meryl was 14. That's certainly a bit of a stretch, but not totally egregious. Miranda Richardson, however, is merely five years older than Graves. That's a bit ridiculous, even for thirty years ago, when women seemed to be often relegated to granny roles after they hit 35. We probably wouldn't really guess though, watching this movie. Rupert Graves has a total baby face, and Richardson, while beautiful, has a presence and mature confidence about her that make her believable as this guy's mum. 

The film did fairly well with critics and despite being a bit of an art-house movie, it made some money at the box office (sex has always been a big draw). The greatest praise went to Richardson, earning Oscar and Golden Globe nominations, and winning both the BAFTA and top prize from the New York Film Critics Circle. Ultimately, this film probably would've been way too risky compared to the type of fare Meryl usually signed onto. But all the more exciting it would've been to see her in the role!



  1. Great choice Jeff, I agree about that scene being the one to seal the deal awards wise. I would have been glad to see Miranda win for this.

    I was hoping for some way to see Meryl cast in Glengarry Glen Ross, maybe in the Alec Baldwin role as the younger boss who comes to admonish the team? What a cast! Alas this movie is problem to male-dominated to ever consider such a progressive move so I will look elsewhere.

    I'm not sure if I'm missing a trick but there aren't many other movies this year with supporting parts that excite me. I'll opt for the Julianne Moore role in the classic (of its genre) "The Hand That Rocks The Cradle". I loved this movie as a kid and in spite of it generating a handful of lesser rip-offs, was a compelling watch in its own right. And that conservatory scene! Ouch, what a way to go!

    1. OMG this is so bad I'd never even heard of Glengarry Glen Ross. But I love the idea of seeing Meryl (or any woman) in a role that was originally written or portrayed by a man.

      Also LOVE Hand that Rocks the Cradle!