Monday, March 25, 2013


Comments

“…. And Fonda is downright terrific. The grande-dame mannerisms that marred her performance in Coming Home are gone: there's no sense of distance between her and Kimberly Wells, a "manufactured" media personality who blossoms under intense pressure. There's a new simplicity in her acting that impresses all the more because it isn't calculated to impress. It's a pleasure to watch a superb actress continually refining her art.”

-- David Ansen, Newsweek, March ?, 1979


“It's no surprise, given the subject, that the woman reporter is played by Jane Fonda. The character is not complex, it doesn't demand anything like the range of some other roles she has played, but it's great to have it in her hands. She gives it every bit of veracity and fire that in needs, and the moment just before the end when she breaks down briefly on camera is pure Fonda, therefore superb….

-- Stanley Kauffmann, New Republic, April 7, 1979




“The filmmakers have also created a good role for Jane Fonda. After her jaw-clenching solemnity in Comes a Horseman and California Suite, it's a relief to see Fonda as Kimberly Wells, an anxious, hustling TV reporter with flaming red hair who does idiotic "soft news" features on an L.A. station. To her ratings-conscious bosses, Kimberly (perfect name) is both an expensive toy and a valuable asset, and they take an almost sexual satisfaction in controlling her; smiling and flirting with the audience as she delivers her stories, she is miserably conscious of her whore's performance. When she pleads with the station head for the right to report serious news, her face falls in confusion as the man starts to praise her looks. In the end, of course, she proves herself professionally. Having made a breakthrough in her own life, Fonda keeps returning to the moment of awakened consciousness in her movies; the shift from weakness to strength is now her special drama, her victory, her only true message--like Katharine Hepburn's bullheadedness in the thirties….”

-- David Denby, New York, April 2, 1979

“…. Her hair dyed Brenda Starr-red, Jane Fonda plays Kimberly Wells, a reporter for a Los Angeles TV station. You've seen Kimberly before. She's the bright-eyed looker with the ivory smile who does the fluff reporting, and there's a woman like her on just about every network affiliate in the country. Of course, Kimberly wants to be an investigative reporter, and we get glimpses of the intelligence and drive that might make her a good one….

“[O]f course, the story of Kimberly Wells is Jane Fonda's favorite; it's the story of her life, the story of the woman she keeps playing over and over, of the Barbie doll who becomes politicized, gains strength and develops a conscience. Originally, The China Syndrome had no major woman's role. Richard Dreyfuss was to star as a documentary filmmaker who witnessed the accident. After he turned down the role for financial reasons, Fonda was shown the script, and she and Bridges sat down to create a part for her. Small wonder, then, that Kimberly Wells comes out sounding a lot like Lillian Hellman in Julia or Sally Hyde in Coming Home. I like her Hellman a lot but I've liked her roles progressively less since then: she was pallid and self-important in Coming Home, strained in Comes a Horseman and awful in California Suite. No matter. In The China Syndrome, she's splendid: direct, emotional and often very funny. Still, I wish Fonda would stretch herself more. Replaying her own history from the Vadim days to the Hayden era can't be much of a challenge. Could she still portray a Bree Daniels, the smart, bitchy call girl of Klute? Though The China Syndrome may be created in her image, it's also a pretty conventional thriller, and there's not much room in it for depth of characterization. When I raised some of these questions with her over brunch, Fonda grew livid. 'Isn't it enough just to raise issues?' she yelled. No, not enough. But in the case of The China Syndrome, it's a good start.”

-- Stephen Schiff, Boston Phoenix, March 20, 1979

“…. Most of the acting struck me as subtle, sophisticated, and modulated. But somewhere along the line I got the feeling that something was missing, that some unintended irony had leaked into the dramatic and thematic machinery...

“The complications begin with Jane Fonda's self-parody as Kimberly Wells, a bright-eyed, red-headed TV newsgirl with a flair for the trivial and a hankering for the significant. Fonda herself describes her role as an acting out of her Brenda Starr fantasy. She may even be reflecting her own transition from the Roger Vadim era of narcissistic dispay to the Tom Hayden era of political activism. The satiric edge of Fonda's performance is dulled somewhat by our awareness of the actress's complicity in her star-image. As in Coming Home, the character she plays must inevitably be awakened from her long sleep of superficiality. She has not really become this character so much as she has commented upon her. I, for one, would not have it any other way. I have been a Fonda fan through Vadim and Hayden, and I would not have her submerge any of her sensuality or humor for the dubious tasks of sub-stellar characterization.

-- Andrew Sarris, Village Voice, March 19, 1979

“…. Kimberly isn't a political firebrand; she's a hustler who wants to graduate to a better job. Her obsession with the nuclear story is motivated by ambition as well as by moral concern, and this rings true. At the start, Fonda does a fine job of capturing Kimberly's docility; she brings her customary imagination to the role. But the more interesting character is the power-plant engineer, Jack Godell (Jack Lemmon)… His moral dilemma is the heart of the film....

-- Stephen Farber, New West, April 9, 1979

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

David Ansen

“…. With Jane Fonda heading the cast, it couldn't help but be a thriller with a very large social conscience….

“Bridges has drawn fine performances from his large, predominantly male cast…. And Fonda is downright terrific. The grande-dame mannerisms that marred her performance in "Coming Home" are gone: there's no sense of distance between her and Kimberly Wells, a "manufactured" media personality who blossoms under intense pressure. There's a new simplicity in her acting that impresses all the more because it isn't calculated to impress. It's a pleasure to watch a superb actress continually refining her art.”

David Ansen
Newsweek, date ?

David Denby

“The filmmakers have also created a good role for Jane Fonda. After her jaw-clenching solemnity in Comes a Horseman and California Suite, it's a relief to see Fonda as Kimberly Wells, an anxious, hustling TV reporter with flaming red hair who does idiotic "soft news" features on an L.A. station. To her ratings-conscious bosses, Kimberly (perfect name) is both an expensive toy and a valuable asset, and they take an almost sexual satisfaction in controlling her; smiling and flirting with the audience as she delivers her stories, she is miserably conscious of her whore's performance. When she pleads with the station head for the right to report serious news, her face falls in confusion as the man starts to praise her looks. In the end, of course, she proves herself professionally. Having made a breakthrough in her own life, Fonda keeps returning to the moment of awakened consciousness in her movies; the shift from weakness to strength is now her special drama, her victory, her only true message--like Katharine Hepburn's bullheadedness in the thirties….”

David Denby
New York, April 2, 1979

Stephen Schiff

“…. Her hair dyed Brenda Starr-red, Jane Fonda plays Kimberly Wells, a reporter for a Los Angeles TV station. You've seen Kimberly before. She's the bright-eyed looker with the ivory smile who does the fluff reporting, and there's a woman like her on just about every network affiliate in the country. Of course, Kimberly wants to be an investigative reporter, and we get glimpses of the intelligence and drive that might make her a good one. But you can't fight ratings. "You didn't get this job because of your investigative abilities," her saturnine station manager hisses. "By the way, I like your hair. Keep it that way."….

“… [F]or the most part, Bridges's direction is crisp and restrained, creating a cold, rather remote atmosphere that mirrors his characters' studied professionalism perfectly. These people are their jobs…. The film is… marvelously economical in its character touches. In one remarkable scene, Fonda's Kimberly enters her house, picks up her pet turtle and turns on her telphone message tape. We hear her mother nattering on about nothing; we hear a sexy male voice reminding her that he'd once picked her up and could they get together for a drink; and then we hear Douglas calling her an asshole for sucking up to the TV executives. On her mantelpiece is a picture of Marilyn Monroe--another pretty face who suffered from typecasting. In a few terse shots, Bridges has told us everything we need to know about Kimberly Wells. [There isn't more to know?]

“And of course, the story of Kimberly Wells is Jane Fonda's favorite; it's the story of her life, the story of the woman she keeps playing over and over, of the Barbie doll who becomes politicized, gains strength and develops a conscience. Originally, The China Syndrome had no major woman's role. Richard Dreyfuss was to star as a documentary filmmaker who witnessed the accident. After he turned down the role for financial reasons, Fonda was shown the script, and she and Bridges sat down to create a part for her. Small wonder, then, that Kimberly Wells comes out sounding a lot like Lillian Hellman in Julia or Sally Hyde in Coming Home. I like her Hellman a lot but I've liked her roles progressively less since then: she was pallid and self-important in Coming Home, strained in Comes a Horseman and awful in California Suite. No matter. In The China Syndrome, she's splendid: direct, emotional and often very funny. Still, I wish Fonda would stretch herself more. Replaying her own history from the Vadim days to the Hayden era can't be much of a challenge. Could she still portray a Bree Daniels, the smart, bitchy call girl of Klute? Though The China Syndrome may be created in her image, it's also a pretty conventional thriller, and there's not much room in it for depth of characterization. When I raised some of these questions with her over brunch, Fonda grew livid. "Isn't it enough just to raise issues?" she yelled. No, not enough. But in the case of The China Syndrome, it's a good start.”

Stephen Schiff
Boston Phoenix, March 20, 1979

Stanley Kauffmann

“It's no surprise, given the subject, that the woman reporter is played by Jane Fonda. The character is not complex, it doesn't demand anything like the range of some other roles she has played, but it's great to have it in her hands. She gives it every bit of veracity and fire that in needs, and the moment just before the end when she breaks down briefly on camera is pure Fonda, therefore superb….

“These actors, and all the others, are well directed by James Bridges, particularly for tempo and crossfire, yet without the frenetic feeling we get in some films….”

Stanley Kauffmann
New Republic, April 7, 1979

Stephen Farber

“…. Kimberly isn't a political firebrand; she's a hustler who wants to graduate to a better job. Her obsession with the nuclear story is motivated by ambition as well as by moral concern, and this rings true. At the start, Fonda does a fine job of capturing Kimberly's docility; she brings her customary imagination to the role. But the more interesting character is the power-plant engineer, Jack Godell (Jack Lemmon)… His moral dilemma is the heart of the film, and Lemmon is deeply moving…

“The China Syndrome has a potent subject, a solid story and two fine performances. Why, then, is the movie so fatally lacking in suspense?….”

Stephen Farber
New West, April 9, 1979

Andrew Sarris

“…. Most of the acting struck me as subtle, sophisticted, and modulated. But somewhere along the line I got the feeling that something was missing, that some unintended irony had leaked into the dramatic and thematic machinery, and that there was something wrong with a movie that ended not with a bang, but a whimper.

“The complications begin with Jane Fonda's self-parody as Kimberly Wells, a bright-eyed, red-headed TV newsgirl with a flair for the trivial and a hankering for the significant. Fonda herself describes her role as an acting out of her Brenda Starr fantasy. She may even be reflecting her own transition from the Roger Vadim era of narcissistic dispay to the Tom Hayden era of political activism. The satiric edge of Fonda's performance is dulled somewhat by our awareness of the actress's complicity in her star-image. As in Coming Home, the character she plays must inevitably be awakened from her long sleep of superficiality. She has not really become this character so much as she has commented upon her. I, for one, would not have it any other way. I have been a Fonda fan through Vadim and Hayden, and I would not have her submerge any of her sensuality or humor for the dubious tasks of sub-stellar characterization.

“As the plot would have it, Kimberly Wells was sympathetic to radical causes in the late '60s but decided to return to the establishment fold in the late '70s. She secures a camerman's assignment for an unregenerate '60s style radical… (Michael Douglas)….”

Andrew Sarris
Village Voice, March 19, 1979
[check review to see what how last paragraph fits]