Ode to a Kate
Upon the Titanic you set sail
with your beloved Jack
Twas a tremendous fail
Round your neck, The Heart of the Ocean
upon our hearts you bestowed a love potion
O Kate! Bewitching us with Rose, Ophelia, et al
Oscars, Emmys, Cesars! Thou art worthy of them all!
While you exalt in the opiate-like after effects of reading Ode to a Kate, please allow me to continue praising Kate Winslet’s most exceptional silver screen character portraits…
Rose DeWitt Bukater Kate played Rose, her greatest creation, in James Cameron’s modest, little known film, Titanic. Basic story: boy meets girl on ship, ship smashes into iceberg, boy loses girl to lifeboat, girl jumps back on sinking ship, boy gives girl floating door, girl pushes frozen boy off of her door-boat.
Rose is a fabulous brat during the entire movie. She scoffs at the other first class passengers (king of the universe types), insults the boy who loves her (Jack/Leo DiCaprio), cheats on her fiancee (he is pretty awful though) and sasses her snobby mom (who does sort of deserve it). And yet we can’t resist Kate as Rose. Flying with Jack at the bow of the ship, running from her caddish fiance, having her middle school aged looking boyfriend draw her nude portrait, drinking and smoking with the hoi polloi in steerage, treading water in the icy Atlantic. All the while looking like a Titian goddess, with her Saturn red hair rinse and hypothermic complexion.
April Wheeler. Kate really suffers in Revolutionary Road as a 1950’s suburban housewife who wants to lead an exciting life in Paris. Her character hates everyone she meets, including her conformist neighbors. And she especially hates her husband (Leo DiCaprio!) because he is boring and likes his bougie job. She mocks, sneers and screams at him. Oh, how she screams at him! Then we witness the fight to end all fights. Leo confesses an affair but also a desperate desire to make their marriage work. Kate laughs at him for thinking she would care. Leo erupts in a tearful rage, hollering “F&%* you!!!!” at the top of his lungs. (Don’t worry, the kids are at a neighbor’s.) He rails at her, calling her an empty shell. A lesser actress would wilt — I don’t know if even Meryl Streep would be able to keep her composure — but not our Kate. Then she really freaks out Leo… the next morning she goes all robotic, acting like a dutiful wife. So many colors on her actor’s palette.
Adele. Another fine performance of Kate’s that deserves to be seen is in the does not deserve to be seen drama/inadvertent comedy, Labor Day. In this little trifle, Kate is a single mom in a small town, struggling with anxiety and depression. Long story short: an escaped convict (Josh Brolin) holds Kate and her young son hostage in their house. She is afraid of course, but the kidnapper turns out to be a nice guy. Of course! Kate’s tremulous fear becomes tremulous longing as Josh embarks on home improvements and spends quality time with her son. The highlight is The Peach Pie Scene. Josh coaxes Kate and the boy into making a peach pie. At first Kate is unsure if she can trust this man with dessert preparation or… her heart. But we can see her confidence grow under his gentle tutelage. About half way through making the pie, the erotic tension becomes palpable. ( I think the kid went outside or something.) Finally the time comes to cover the peaches with the top pastry crust. Can she just let go and finish the pie to symbolically let go of her fears? Kate flings that pie crust atop the filling like a boss! And like a benediction, Josh covers her hands with his flour covered hands. A master class in acting from Kate. And pie making.
Kate, keep gifting us with your characters who cry and scream. And steal our hearts. And when you are finally declared Dame Kate by the British sovereign, I will be there amongst the cheering throngs, reciting Ode to a Kate.