THE PERFORMER | Julianne Nicholson
THE SHOW | HBO’s Mare of Easttown
THE EPISODE | “Sacrament” (May 30, 2021)
THE PERFORMANCE | Six episodes into Mare of Easttown, it’d be fair to wonder why someone of Nicholson’s talent and stature would take on the role of Lori Ross, best friend to Kate Winslet’s titular detective. It’s less a quality issue than a quantity one; aside from serving as a confidante to Mare, Lori just didn’t have a ton to do.
Well, after watching Sunday’s Lori-centric seventh and final episode, suffice it to say we will think twice before ever questioning Nicholson’s career decisions again.
In the aftermath of [MAJOR SPOILER ALERT] the revelation that her onscreen son Ryan was the who in the whodunit, Nicholson’s depiction of a mother in crisis was so authentically raw and heartbreaking it took our breath away on multiple occasions.
One tour-de-force, however, stands above and beyond the rest. We’re referring to what, from here on out, we will affectionately refer to as “the car scene,” during which Lori unloaded on Mare for arresting Ryan without even the courtesy of a heads-up. When Mare took the passenger seat and attempted to physically console Lori, Nicholson threw her entire upper body into her alter ego’s subsequent rejection, recoiling with both disgust and fury at her BFF’s touch. After reminding Mare that Ryan’s father had already taken the fall for the murder, she wailed, “You have John. Why couldn’t you just leave it alone? It’s Ryan!”
It’s the choices Nicholson makes next that elevate this scene from memorable to flat-out iconic. As Lori shouts her son’s name to Mare three more times in quick succession, Nicholson subtly suffuses each outburst with a greater intensity and devastation. It’s as if the reality of the whole tragic situation — and Mare’s role in it — came into a new and agonizing focus for her with each passing syllable.
That, in turn, brings Lori’s fury back to the surface. But in Nicholson’s deft hands, her demeanor shifts rapidly from cold and eerily apathetic (“Get away from me. I don’t want to see you again”) to belligerent and borderline incoherent (“Get away from… Get the f–k… Get the f–k out of my car.”) In short, Lori was a mess. Nicholson, on the other hand, was downright masterful.
Which performance(s) knocked your socks off this week? Tell us in Comments!
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