The Miracle Worker Reviews
Annie Sullivan: Pity for this tyrant? Is there anything she wants she doesn't get? I'll tell you what I pity... that the sun won't rise and set for her all her life, and every day you're telling her it will. What you and your pity do will destroy her, Captain Keller.
The story involves Helen Keller (Patty Duke) who was born both blind and deaf. Her family is on the verge of putting her into an institute because she has grown into a menace. Enter Annie Sullivan (Anne Bancroft), a teacher for the deaf, but also for the blind. She has come to teach Helen the ways of communication, despite her condition. Helen doesn't want to learn at first, but in order to better make herself known, :she must oblige by Annie's rules, and listen.
"The Miracle Worker" is a fantastic drama that everyone should at least see once in their lives. Why is this, you ask? Well, for one thing, the story is presented in a realistic fashion that makes the viewer invested in the action. The audience wants to witness Helen succeed, and there is a prime motivation driving Annie to complete her mission. As well as wanting to learn more about :the actual events surrounding the film. Sure most of the events portrayed in the film are fictionalized, but it's done so well, one cannot be amazed at what is happening on screen.
In fact, the editing compliments this fact by making quick cuts of the action between Helen and Annie all the more realistic. This, in turn, makes the pacing of the movie consistent; by running less than two hours, the film gets across what it needs to do. Complimenting all of this, is the black and white cinematography that makes everything look great; from the sets and the costumes, this movie is definitely a visual treat. Finally, the music by Lawrence Rosenthal offers up a great soundtrack that creates a haunting atmosphere, whenever one hears it. But what really makes the movie stand out, are the performance of our two main leads.
Both Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke, both of whom won Oscars for their roles, deservedly, give out magnificent performances. The rest of the cast do great jobs, as well, but it is Bancroft and Duke who clearly shine here. Under the superb direction of Arthur Penn, these two women make "The Miracle Worker", and turn it into one of the greatest films of all time.
In conclusion, "The Miracle Worker" is a marvelous movie that details the struggle of human emotion should be seen, and make people aware of the conditions that are presented here.
The story of Helen Keller has been passed down for generations and referenced countless times in popular culture, though it has left me only loosely familiar with the story. With notorious critical acclaim to boast, Arthur Penn's film adaptation had enough credibility to capture my intrigue. But ultimately I was a little too optimistic about the project. Given that The Miracle Worker is based on a Broadway play which had the same director, main actors and writer as the film adaptation, it is heavily indebted to its theatrical roots. Fans of the original Broadway production can rejoice at the fact that the film adaptation maintains fidelity to its source material, but it is clear that limitations are placed upon the project due to being originally a play.
Definitely a film of its time, much of The Miracle Worker cannot be said to have survived the battle of age. As with most classical films, The Miracle Worker relies on a slow pace and a lot of talking without focusing too deeply on any of the characters in the film. Instead, it attempts to focus largely on the bigger picture of things. In that sense, we are provided with a perspective on Helen Keller's life and how it is affected her entire family. It takes a while before the focus really settles onto her developing relationship with Anne Sullivan. The entire story occurs within a small setting as this proves to be the predominant focus of the narrative, allowing the film to get away with a budget of only $500,000. But there isn't enough character depth in the film to actually support the bigger picture. It's clearly not possible to put such depth into Helen Keller. But the main character of the story is the titular miracle worker Johanna "Anne" Sullivan who has transcended her own visionary issues and is determined to pass her wisdom onto Helen Keller. There are hints at greater internal struggles going on in her mind which are never utilized, leaving the larger scope of potential to go ignored. Ultimately, The Miracle Worker ends up relying more on the simple idea behind its story and the performances of the cast to empower it as the screenplay doesn't capture the full extent of the greater ambition.
The idea behind the story of The Miracle Worker is actually a very inspiring one, but the lengthy process of actually teaching literacy and language to Helen Keller doesn't constitute enough entertainment value on the big screen. I mean, there's only so much time you can watch Patty Duke flailing her arms around and tripping over things before the gimmick becomes tiring, regardless of the fact that it constitutes the majority of the film. The lack of character depth fails to provide much of a sympathetic feeling during these times and so it doesn't feel like there is all that much of a struggle, rather just a repetitive game of competition between a tutor and student. As much as the physical acting may provide atmospheric tension at these moments, it's a very repetitive experience. Seeing it happen on the stage would be far greater as experiencing the raw emotional tension of the performances in person has a more powerful effect than when it is blurred by the interference of a screen. Simply put, The Miracle Worker is little more than a filmed stage production without enough substance to work on narrative terms of stylistic creativity to distract from it all.
But regardless of the limitations imposed on the overall film by its form, the efforts of the cast are very respectable.
Anne Bancroft's leading performance is a strong one. Putting all the passionate determination she can into the role, Anne Bancroft is able to craft a consistent and ambitious character out of Johanna "Anne" Sullivan. Though not without her vulnerabilities, Anne Sullivan is a woman on an endless quest to pass on her wisdom as a means of proving herself and helping another. Anne Bancroft's resilience leaks over into the character and forwards her the chance to hone it, an ambition which she grasps with power which just rises over the course of the narrative. As her chemistry with Patty Duke develops, Anne Bancroft's determined edge fuels a more aggressive edge in the character which she struggles to bottle. The battle of wills between the two is one Ane Bancroft consistently maintains a tenacious grip around, and her focus is always clearly driving towards her goals. Anne Bancroft manages to capture the legacy of the titular Miracle Worker by taking her role to the furthest extents that the script will allow, proving just how far she is capable of supporting a role purely on the basis of her own independent and instinctive dramatic talents.
Patty Duke also delivers a powerful effort. As I said, it's difficult to find depth in the role of a character who is blind and deaf as it is a purely physical role. Yet Patty Duke takes it head-on and delivers as many volts of intense physical labour that she can in the role. It all starts with the way she positions her eyes as she proves able to maintain an aimless stare in any situation without ever focusing them on anything, grasping the blind nature of her character. And its impressive how calm Patty Duke remains at so many points of time in the story because it works to depict Hellen Keller's distance from the world around her. Patty Duke doesn't even flinch; she is just so lost in her own world that she only channels what she is meant to, depicting the full extent of brilliance which Patty Duke has to offer as an actress. Her movements are aggressive enough to convey Helen Keller's constant state of hysteria, and it comes with an edge of aggression as well. Patty Duke's physical efforts in The Miracle Worker do a powerful job conveying her internal struggle.
Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke deliver a powerful pair of leading performances, but The Miracle Worker is too often trapped within the confines of its theatrical roots to capture the larger scale of its cinematic potential yet is bereft of the theatrical experience due to its cinematic form.
Does require a fair bit of perseverance, however. The first half is quite painful to watch, as Keller does random, almost malicious things, without any sign that her behaviour will change. This also involves a few "fight" scenes between her and Sullivan, scenes that seem to go on far too long and are far too frequent.
Add in an incredibly irritating, overacted performance by Victor Jory as the stupid-yet-very opinionated father - his idea of acting seems to be shouting very loudly, all the time - and the movie is set to be a massive test of patience.
Gets better, however, and the ending is quite emotional.