The Best Actress race just got a WHOLE LOT more interesting, as if, from out of nowhere thirty-year veteran character actress Ann Dowd(Ann who? And no, I didn’t know her either before this) just set an audience on fire at the IFC theater in Manhattan! Where she blew the roof off the place! RARELY have I ever seen a performance like this! The audience was SCREAMING at the screen! Yes! And at least ten people walked out. But the rest stayed and the Q&A that followed was volcanic with the audience so enflamed, they were actually shouting questions at the stage!
This movie”Compliance” really turned people inside out! And it was the mastery of Ann Dowd. who reveals herself to be one of America’s greatest unsung actresses, who you totally fall in love with as a fast food restaurant manager in rural Pennsylvania(or some place like it) Her character Sandra is a poor, hard-working woman, who is a very responsible middle-aged lady who is devoted to doing her job to the best of her ability. And one night she gets a phone call from the police(she thinks) who tell her that her nubile young counter girl at Chick Wich has stolen money, and thus begins a descent into a living hell in a stock room.
With no blood shed, whatsoever, writer/director Craig Zobel twists the audience into red-hot pretzels with razor-sharp suspense of the type that we rarely EVER see. The audience was glued to their seats as they could barely stand to watch what unfolded, but they could not look away either….And this is based on a true story. Or many true stories. Of incidents like this happening all over America.
And the magic of “Compliance” is totally in the masterful performance of Ann Dowd, who is simply breathtaking and heart-breaking at the same time! I hear Oscar calling! Where have I seen a performance like this before? Oh! When Daniel Jenkins came out of nowhere in an Indie and got nominated for Best Actor! And they said it couldn’t happen! Lightning doesn’t strike twice. But in the case of Ann Dowd, it has. She’s been struck by lightning! Oscar lightning!
And where do you see a clearly middle-aged actress approaching a part with absolutely no vanity whatsoever and armed, for most of the film, only with a cell phone, an off-stage voice (the police. Or is it?) and her talent. In a close up, a tight tight close up for most of the film, Dowd holds you mesmerized, as you totally want her to get off the phone, and also understand why she can’t. She’s frightened! She’s trying to be a responsible employee and do the right thing. The thing that the voice on the cell phone keeps telling her to do. She can’t put it down! She’s glued to it! And we, the audience are glued to our seats.
And what results is one of the greatest of cinematic tour-de-forces of a great actress meeting the impossible challenge of a great, great role.
Dowd is barely off-screen for the entire length of the film, and she holds it, and held this audience tonight in the tightest of tight grips until you’re ready to scream. Not since Hitchcock have a seen such a stunning display of suspense with just the simplest of items and the starkest of stark sets. The back storage room of a Chick Wich.
And nobody helps her. Nobody stops her. I don’t want to reveal more except to say that IFC and Co. better turn this red-hot performance of the year into an Oscar campaign, for a character actress, who is so ordinary looking that you’d never think she’d have it in her to give a performance like this. Why hasn’t she? Because Ann Dowd has never gotten the part to show what she can really do, and believe me, in “Compliance”, she does it! She really ,really does it! And breaks your heart as she makes you scream.
Hitchcock would’ve loved this film and tonight people were scrambling for ways to express what they felt, but I have the words ~ OSCAR NOMINATION FOR BEST ACTRESS!
The Actor’s Branch is gonna love this. One of their own, from the rank-and-file, coming through brilliantly at a time in most actresses lives where they are totally written off, because of her age, and her looks. But Ann Dowd, has the talent that is so rare in that she makes you keep looking at her! No matter what she’s doing in “Compliance” and it is shocking,compelling and disturbing beyond belief, and more shocking will be that this ASTOUNDING performance is allowed to fall between the awards cracks, because she’s a) an unknown b) not a glamour girl and c) it’s an Indie.
Oscar!! I’m calling you out!! Make this happen!!!!