“Chewing the scenery,” an American phrase coined in the late 19th century, refers to dramatic, theatrical overacting. Watching performers chew the scenery can be excruciating, except when it’s an excellent actor or actress working with top-notch material – then it’s fun. Here are four films – two with dysfunctional workplaces, two with disintegrating marriages – that feature actors at the top of their game chewing the scenery.
Notes on a Scandal (2006) is a wicked film based on the novel What Was She Thinking by Zoë Heller. Sheba (Cate Blanchett) is an art teacher who winds up in a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old student; meanwhile, her colleague Barbara (Judi Dench) is at first her confidante but has alterior motives that could destroy Sheba, her career and her family. Melodrama like this is rarely seen in contemporary cinema, and with lesser actors, scenes like the showdown between the two leads would have devolved into camp. But Blanchett and Dench (both nominated for Best Actress Oscars for their performances) are perfect in their portrayls of two women whose lives are devoured by secrets, bitterness and cynicism. Continue reading “Movie Mondays: Chewing the scenery”