Posted by: reederwi | August 4, 2010

Lee Grant, Shampoo (1975)

 

The 1975 film Shampoo takes place over the course a 24 hour period on the eve of the 1968 presidential election. No one in Beverly Hills seems to care much about Richard Nixon’s triumphant march to the presidency or his promise to unite a divided nation. Instead, all eyes, especially those belonging to the city’s chic, financially well-off women are turned towards George Roundy (Warren Beatty), a dim-witted and sexy hairstylist who has trouble controlling his libido around his well-coiffed clients. Among George’s sexual conquests are an unhappy, middle aged wife and mother, Felicia (Lee Grant); a neurotic, aspiring actress, Jill (Goldie Hawn); George’s gorgeous ex-girlfriend, Jackie (Julie Christie) who is the mistress of Felicia’s tycoon husband, Lester (Jack Warden); and Felicia’s mother-loathing daughter, Lorna (Carrie Fisher).  While George juggles the women in his life, he attempts to find funding to open his own beauty salon. After being turned down at the bank, Lester offers to help finance George’s dream. Things come to a head when Lester invites George (who he thinks is gay) to escort Jackie to a Nixon presidential fundraiser. Jackie’s jealously over Lester, fueled by a night of drinking, spirals out of control and ultimately lands her under a banquet table between George’s legs. Ultimately the marriages in the film self-destruct and George’s babe-juggling ways wear him down. Soon all of George’s women jump ship and his financial deal with Lester crumbles to the ground. The film, which was directed by Hal Ashby and was produced and co-written by Beatty, never really soars. It falls just short of brutality when it needs to be utterly savage and it never reaches the heights of hilarity when it’s supposed to be humorous. Beatty’s dopey portrayal of George sadly brings nothing to the mix. It’s up to Warden (as Lester) and the film’s sizzling actresses (notably Hawn and Christie) to help the film get off the ground.

Of the film’s four Oscar nominations, two of them went to supporting players. The first was for Jack Warden and his portrayal of Lester, the red-haired tycoon who attempts to skillfully balance a wife and a mistress. The second, and the film’s sole Oscar win went to Lee Grant, winner, (158), for her role as Felicia. Grant truly delivers a powerhouse performance in the first half of the film. Felicia’s a schemer and Grant plays it with sheer girlish giddiness and fervor. For two thirds of her performance, she is utterly charasmatic. But the last third feels woefully underdeveloped. When Felicia hits the party, her character devolves into a series of icy glances and unspoken implosions. What made her so watchable in the first half of the film, makes her nearly intolerable in the latter half. Grant was a worthy Best Supporting Actress nominee in 1975. How she won the Oscar, and beat out both Ronee Blakely and Lily Tomlin for their impressive work in Nashville, is somewhat perplexing.

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