Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Lili Taylor as Valerie Solanas in I SHOT ANDY WARHOL



You can feel a signature role in a small indie films more readily than bigger budgeted projects. The heart and passion to tell a point of view with characters who aren’t the first on your Christmas card list. People like Valerie we avoid – everyone avoids. Lili Taylor, a maverick renegade artist as far as I’m concerned, has always looked in bizarre territory or sought after unfriendly characters, well, she wrapped her pint sized figure and teeth into this one. In the beginning, when she’s coming down the stairs, handcuffed after being arrested, we see how dead-on Lili is…Twitchy and blank. Dark and soft. You can tell she had done her research on what exactly Valerie's psychological disorder was…precisely – but maybe a dash of her own theories as well. She goes from her own world and then off again… drifts off into her own private universe of man hatred madness and then enters reality like a car crash - smack! Lili Taylor knows this girls tortured soul and gleefully inhabits this character. You don’t get the feeling Lili had lingering scars from this smart real life portrayal unlike Jessica Lange’s FRANCES, it’s a wonderful piece of acting. You get the feeling that Lili had a really good time with this one but still accomplished the same depth.

Based on the true story of Valerie Solanas who was a 60s radical preaching hatred toward men in her "Scum" manifesto. She wrote a screenplay for a film that she wanted Andy Warhol to produce, but he continued to ignore her. So she shot him. This is Valerie's story. Taylor gives her greatest performance yet. Wearing a newsboy's cap, funky, over sized clothes and a self-righteous smirk, Taylor is Valerie Solanas, the chain-smoking radical feminist who formed SCUM (Society for Cutting Up Men), wrote an infamous manifesto proposing the elimination of men and on June 3, 1968, shot Andy Warhol with a .32- caliber automatic.

In following the life of Valerie Solanas from her wounded childhood to her moment of vindication, director Mary Harmon (American Psycho and Bette Page) and actress (Indy Queen for a long while) Lily Taylor go inside the mind of a woman who was deranged and possibly schizophrenic, and follow the logic of her situation as she sees it, until her act is revealed as the inevitable result of what went before. Harmon and Taylor never slip in complete Psychological drama or a paranoid woman or hero who is misunderstood. They do both. Not easy –but in this film dances on the brink of both sympathy and terror.

The centerpiece is Taylor all the way, she takes a larger than life complex woman and makes her simple, funny, furiously alive and spooky sexiness with ugly demons just under the surface. She makes her determined and passionate and bright and all her demons justified. Ms. Talyor who has often played strange outsiders looking in – in the past with HOUSEHOLD SAINTS, DOGFIGHT, GIRLS Town, and even in SAY ANYTHING – she was the girl who played guitar and obsessed over Joe – remember that? She wrote 52 songs about her High School love Joe - Love her. This time out she finds the dream mental sickness role of a lifetime – the uber combative Valarie Solanas and 'kills it'.

Tough a a teamster yet poignantly naive and shy, she takes no prisoners when it comes to espousing radical theories or cooking up ways to make a buck – even sports Golf shoes and walking over her tricks chest. Charging sometimes a sliding 6 dollar scale for her conversation skills. “Fifty cents a dirty word !?! Fifty Cents?...Men!” Slicing right into her manifesto – always ready to let the same or opposite sex have it with her many theories of disgust regarding ‘Men’.

Solanas, who was abused as a child and worked her way through college as a prostitute, comes across as a gifted woman who never quite loses a wry sense of humor. After a short career on her college paper (she writes columns arguing that females can reproduce without males and should do so), Valerie takes on Manhattan; she writes plays, does readings in luncheonettes, and is befriended by Candy Darling ( never better – Stephen Doriff, a transsexual who takes her for the first time to the Factory.

Lili Taylor plays Solanas as mad but not precisely irrational. She gives the character spunk, irony and a certain heroic courage (the sight of her typing on her rooftop, the wind rustling the pages of her manuscript, is touching) – understanding – completely. Variety calls Taylor ``the first lady of the indie cinema,'' and in one independent film after another (``Mystic Pizza,'' ``Dogfight,'' ``Household Saints,'' ``Arizona Dream,'' ``Bright Angel,'' ``Short Cuts'') she has proven herself the most intelligent and versatile of performers. If you had to look at all of the films of one actor who has emerged in the last 20 years, you would run less chance of being bored with Lili Taylor’s choices than anyone else.

It's a hell of a role, and Taylor, who won a well-deserved Grand Jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival for her performance, is brilliant.

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