While she has worked steadily, Marisa Tomei’s Oscar win for My Cousin Vinny in 1992 didn’t translate into the kind of career I thought her timing and emotional range commanded.
Fast forward to the new millenium. I was delighted to see Marisa Tomei give stand out performances in The Wrestler and Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead. Tomei, who has a beautiful body, is very much on display in both films. It’s not just the flash of skin. It’s the vulnerability that she gets to as an actress.
It’s true that Hollywood prizes and rewards physical transformation in actors: Monster, Raging Bull, Monster’s Ball, Syriana.
It’s also true that Oscars and Golden Globes don’t guarantee solid careers. I’ve often wondered why the Academy bothered to give Louis Gossett, Jr. the Oscar given the subsequent roles that he was offered.
But something in me cringes when I see Tomei in these roles. Part of what she is doing is certainly great acting. And I probably haven’t escaped the Puritanism that informs so much of American culture.
But I still wonder how the nudity will affect her fortunes as an actor. I also wonder why the men aren’t made to be vulnerable in the same way. When I looked at Tomei, I flashed back to Tracy Camilla Johns
whose sensuality was used in She’s Gotta Have It then New Jack City but whose talent was lost to the movies. I wonder why she didn’t become part of Spike Lee’s ensemble like say Roger Guevener Smith. I don’t know her story but it certainly seems like used then discarded.
Here’s Marisa Tomei talking about the challenges of the role she played in THE WRESTLER. Here’s hoping that she can have a sustained career clothed and unclothed.
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