Actress Mary Louise Wilson will certainly be familiar to most viewers of She’s The Best Thing In It, perhaps from her unhappiest professional experience as a cast member on the sitcom One Day At A Time.
Such irony seems to be a life theme for the actress. When she finally won a Tony award for her portrayal of Big Edie in “Grey Gardens,” she became unemployable.
Needing an artistic outlet, she decided to return to her hometown of New Orleans to teach acting at the drama department of Tulane University.
At first, she is out of her element, just as she was when she went to Hollywood. The acting students have been studying the Suzuki Method, a “very physical representation of Method Acting,” is how one student describes it.
Wilson was a student of Sanford Meisner whose philosophy of living truthfully under imaginary circumstances is the very antithesis of what they have learned. (I describe the significance of his acting technique in my review of Birdman.)
It is a testament to her mastery of his technique and her innate talent that she is eventually able to transform most of the naïve students who are typically pretentious.
Dave: “It isn’t really that I want to be an actor, it’s than I am an actor.”
Joseph: “Acting is a world itself (sic). The entertainment industry is a whole world by itself (sic). It’s a place where people go to be entertained. So I think it would be a very, very good place to make a lucrative income.”
The movie lacks focus, but tells her story honorably. It’s a surprisingly sad one. For all her success and accolades, she still must struggle to work.
Her personal life appears to be in a healing stage- she can now sit and laugh with her spitefully jealous sister- but she missed out on having her own family or long-term relationship for reasons she chooses to keep private.
Astute observations from actresses Valerie Harper, Frances McDormand, and Tyne Daly relieve Mary Louise’s dispiriting comments.
It seems writing is a more uplifting outlet for Ms. Wilson. Her memoir My First Hundred Years In Show Business was published this year by Overlook Press and received this enthusiastic, if not biased, review from Playbill.
Being the best thing in it, with a Tony Award in her hand, doesn’t seem to have fulfilled her life as she imagined it would.
U.S., 2015, 80 min.
Saturday, November 7th, 2015 at Landmark Plaza Frontenac Cinema at 2:30 pm.