as Rachel Cameron in RACHEL, RACHEL (1968)

Rachel, a 35-year-old unmarried schoolteacher who feels as though she's wasted her life. Her best friend, Calla Mackie invites her to attend a religious revival meeting. Here Rachel is swept up in the emotional fervor orchestrated by a guest preacher. It's the first incident which convince Rachel to kick over the traces and express her own needs and emotions. She has a brief sexual liaison and is delighted at the notion that she might have become pregnant. Rachel ends up alone and childless, but still determined to forge a new life. 

"Where I'm going, anything may happen. Nothing may happen. Maybe I'll find a friend. Maybe I'll even marry a middle-aged widower and have children in my time. Most of the chances are against it, but not, I think, quite all. It may be that my children will always be temporary, never to be held. But so are everyone's. I will be afraid, always. I may be lonely, always. What will happen? What will happen?"
                                         - Rachel Cameron

Joanne Woodward received her second Oscar nomination playing Rachel Cameron, a 35-year-old spinster schoolteacher, who feels that her life is meaningless. Haunted by memories of her childhood and her mortician father, Rachel spends each frustrating day taking care of her mother and working with the schoolchildren. The character of Rachel Cameron is an odd one. She still sleeps in her child bed, and  still lives
with her mother. She is not in control of her life. In the first half on the film, there is something very childish in her performance, then she transforms herself into a very intriguing and appealing woman. This total paradox is well executed by Joanne Woodward, but it comes too fast. It’s probably for me the only mesmerizing and good point in her performance. Rachel Cameron is a bit paranoid and very frustrated – this side is the better shown by Joanne Woodward, she plays the naïve and vulnerable woman perfectly. She’s at a turning point of her life: she thinks she doesn’t achieve anything, she is alone, childless, frustrated. She is freaking out, tormented and tortured. At this right moment, her performance takes a turn but not the right one. She could have been very interesting if she had made other choices in her acting. She doesn’t show her inner struggles well. The role is really strong and complex, but she fails to ground her character. Joanne Woodward fails to make us understand her character. She is a mystery at the beginning, she is still a mystery at the end. Sometimes, her reactions are a bit too much and mannered, Joanne Woodward doesn’t really seem true or authentic. Her acting is really calculated and artificial. She never makes us care about her, in fact she doesn’t let the audience having empathy for her. Her performance lacks in intensity and depth. The progression of the character is unexplained and goes too fast which is detrimental for such a complex character. She fails to humanize the passion and feelings of the character. 

"Well-directed by Paul Newman, the film chronicles the ordinary life of its unsung heroine, a small-town spinsterish teacher, beautifully played by Joanne Woodward."
                                                                                               - Emmanuel Levy

The role is baity on paper, but it fails to be created on screen by Joanne Woodward. She gives the oddest performance I have seen so far. We never know anything about her, we never know WHYNothing is ever explained: her weird relationship with her mother? Why does she always remember her past? Why is she so frustrated? Why is she so inexperienced? -  Well, her performance is bland, and Joanne Woodward makes the intricate character so much boring and uninteresting.  



  1. It's the first time I completely disagree with you. IMO this is a strange offputing but quite wonderfuly unsettling and unconfortable performance that at the same time shows a great complexity and sadness. I love her in this. But still I understand some of your problems with it, although I don't agree with your objections at all. Still it's a well written review.

  2. This performance is really odd for me, and I still really don't know what to think about it, this is why my grade might change! I wait to watch all the performances from 1967 and maybe I will readjust my grades.

  3. I agree completely! The film was really awful and her performance just wasn't good...

  4. I haven't seen her but I'm not so sure if I want to see her at all (I will, of course). I'm not a huge fan of Ms. Woodward, to say the least.