Kate Winslet in 'Mare of Easttown' (screen shot).
Actors of a certain vintage know the ropes but remaining at the top demands artistic cunning and jugglery. All want to recapture the glory of their heydays, so they linger, and sometimes manage to return with a bang or a whimper. Some do it with their looks, by remaining perennially youthful, some do it more honestly, with only talent. The reincarnations usually follow much research on what has worked in the past, what will showcase a particular actor in the moment. When top artists adapt to TV, the ‘step-down’ is crafted to coincide with spectacular success.
Malayalam superstar Mohanlal learnt the hard way that too many close-ups spoil the plot; no love-struck camera followed him around in Drishyam 2, giving other characters equal footage as also rounding off the viewing experience. Hollywood stars Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman seamlessly transferred their blockbuster status to the small screen by producing shows and cherry-picking the story and the part. There they were in meatier roles, showing their best profiles.
Kate Winslet did her homework before she decided to produce what suits her best. And, as everyone is talking about, there was no plastic surgery or skeletal proportions – no fat cells were harmed during the filming. Instead, the spotlight was on normal, on real. Mare of Easttown became not just a small-screen debut but an SUV that drove her in like she had always been at the wheel. It was the script, the dialogues and the casting per se that overtook this television debut. Plus a role that seemed a shoo-in.
That an effortless feminism was projected, aided her outing. Kate became Mare. No Titanic or The Reader baggage was noticeable. With a fit just right, she quietly brought in the authenticity of ageing. The tension with a parent, who lives with her, melting into loud cackles in the car following a neighbour’s funeral. The reciting of ‘you said underwear’ with her grandson, whose toenails she was always cutting. The snack she snuck behind a sofa for being yuck. The way she threw herself even into therapy with a practical air. The utter lack of pronounced feminine airs... Neither was the script pandering to her stardom. She is soundly slapped by a colleague’s mom. She is caught planting drugs on her son's girlfriend. Fallible, less than camera-ready. Working, like most mothers, on building a relationship with her daughter. Working, like most daughters, on building a relationship with her mother.
Not that her hormones are absolutely dead, they do put in an appearance now and then like they should in middle age, but without forced photogenic shots. Mostly silent, she lets her frowns speak for themselves. No hair blowing in the breeze to frame her face, not even a bra that fits. The difference between her and her colleagues perhaps lies in the selection of an age-appropriate vehicle.
Mare of Easttown, the latest small-town crime thriller, gives us a deglam heroine to go with Covid times. With beauty parlours and gyms shut, Kate’s un-plucked eyebrows are just what we need.