Gwyneth Paltrow turns 40 today. This is Pop Lifer’s gift.
It is easy to let Gywneth Paltrow’s health shop aroma get in the way. She is vegan. She is wholesome. She likes the odd Guinness. Apparently she doesn’t like London any more, she likes a cry and she doesn’t talk about her marriage. She has long legs.
So Pop Lifer won’t talk about her marriage and will pinch our noses to protect our senses from that toxic waft of echinacia and concentrate instead on her acting. To mark her 40th we will celebrate her enduring and varied career by highlighting her biggest achievement, her contribution to one of the most brutal and memorable Hollywood twists of all – the final scene to “Seven”. The one she’s barely in.
Paltrow can slouch & mutter with suitable kookiness for Wes Anderson’s “The Royal Tenenbaums”; she can ooze charm and comportment accompanied with a perfect English accent in “Emma” and “Shakespeare in Love”; she has carried off Pepper Potts’ tamed shrew to Robert Downney Jnr’s Iron Man with a spiky sass which makes her subservience all the more baffling. She was simply magnificent in “The Talented Mr Ripley”.
However, it’s amidst “Seven’s” faded and relentless rainscape that Paltrow has her iconic moment. Tracy Mills is there to puncture this bleak morality play. There is a burgeoning and begrudging respect that all police procedurals offer up between Paltrow’s hubby and new boy (Brad Pitt’s Detective Mills) and retiring cop (Morgan Freeman’s Detective Lt. William Somerset). There is maybe one joke about peanut butter which Pitt carries with some freewheeling panache. However, it is when husband and wife concede with naive embarrassment to Somerset that they have been stitched up over their above-the-subway apartment that simple warmth is conveyed and the rain almost stops.
The pieces are in place.
Although her screen time is very limited in Seven, she is of course, essential. The final scenes’ soul sapping violence, ugliness and hideous inevitability would not have been so harrowing had Paltrow not occupied the screen with the right balance of tenderness and strength. In other words, she delivered exactly what the film required of her.
Hers is the head in the box. Even now, the idea of Paltrow’s severed head remains toxic and almost inconceivable – a perfect fusion of casting, performance and plot which seals a staggering achievement of a film.
Ernest Hemingway once almost said, ‘I believe Gwyneth Paltrow is a fine actor and is worth fighting for’. Pop Lifer agrees with the first part.