I almost fell over when I saw this smile in the closing seconds of “Play it as It Lays.” In my mind it ranked up there with Garbo on the bow of the ship in Queen Christina.
It’s Tuesday Weld in the 1972 film from the book with the same name by Joan Didion with Anthony Perkins. The film has been virtually lost. It’s not on streaming and unavailable as a DVD. It can be viewed on youtube thankfully.
I’ve been on a Joan Didion voyage the past week since her passing. It’s a hard film to watch and would have been better to read the book first.
It’s a cynical and acerbic story of a burned out B-Movie Actress that jumps and spins so rapidly it’s hard to follow. And that is intentional. The editing sets the pace and the emotional state of Maria (played by Tuesday Weld.) Rotten Tomatoes calls this: “an astringent, cynical movie that ultimately manages to spin one single timid thread of hope.”
In many ways it’s a precursor to Mulholland Drive. The abortion scene is one no one will forget. Too many memorable lines to quote here. This is my favorite: “Existentially, I’m getting a hamburger.”
Joan Didion on being an actress: “I wrote stories from the time I was a little girl, but I didn’t want to be a writer. I wanted to be an actress. I didn’t realize then that it’s the same impulse. It’s make-believe. It’s performance. The only difference being that a writer can do it all alone. I was struck a few years ago when a friend of ours – an actress – was having dinner here with us and a couple of other writers. It suddenly occurred to me that she was the only person in the room who couldn’t plan what she was going to do. She had to wait for someone to ask her, which is a strange way to live.“