Even though the point of Anna Paquin’s seemingly endless silence in Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman” was to reflect her character’s brewing hatred and disgust for her own father (Robert De Niro), feminists are now ripping the film for not giving her more lines.
Writing for The Guardian, Beatrice Loayza said Paquin’s lack of lines in the movie represents “a troubling trend in Hollywood,” arguing her character amounted to more of a “symbol than an actual person.”
“A practically mute, moral spectre judging her father’s criminal lifestyle from the sidelines, she appears only a handful of times – less than 10 minutes in total,” Loayza writes. “Within these boundaries, Peggy is disconcertingly diminished: Paquin speaks six words in a movie that clocks in at three-and-a-half hours. There may be a potency to such intentional restraint within the film’s elegiac trappings, yet circumscribing Peggy as Frank’s moral conscience remains doggedly frustrating. Is she more of a symbol than an actual person?”
“In any case, women in The Irishman are moral reminders and checks on an inward looking all-male reality,” she continues. “So much of The Irishman’s final act has us yearning for Peggy’s final thoughts, for Paquin to take the stage once and for all in some sort of cathartic fashion. But we get no such closure, condemned like Frank to a dreary purgatory of what could have been.”
Rebecca Laurence, editor of BBC Culture, writes: “Anna Paquin is such a great actress, I was waiting for her to speak more than a line and… it didn’t happen.”
“Just saw The Irishman and there is much to say but the most important thing is that Martin underused Anna Paquin SO much my head is spinning,” said one Twitter user.
After enough controversy, people took to Twitter to defend Scorsese’s treatment of Paquin’s character, arguing her few lines packed an emotional punch that even the best Shakespearean monologue couldn’t deliver.
“Anna Paquin in THE IRISHMAN. I’m sincerely confused by people who think she’s wasted or has nothing to do in the movie. She is the moral core. She has one line in the movie, I believe, one word uttered. And it’s f***ing devastating. An ice pick to the heart,” wrote one Twitter user.
“If you honestly don’t understand why Anna Paquin’s character is (mostly) silent in THE IRISHMAN…well, I don’t want to say you’re watching movies wrong. But, you’re watching movies wrong,” argued film critic Chris Evangelista.
Rumors even began to spread that Martin Scorsese ordered Anna Paquin to play the role, which the actress emphatically denied. “Nope, nobody was doing any ‘ordering’. I auditioned for the privilege of joining the incredible cast of [The Irishman] and I’m incredibly proud to get to be a part of this film,” she tweeted.
Nope, nobody was doing any “ordering”. I auditioned for the privilege of joining the incredible cast of .@TheIrishmanFilm and I’m incredibly proud to get to be a part of this film. https://t.co/yx54jE4ugy
— Anna Paquin (@AnnaPaquin) November 9, 2019
Actor Robert De Niro came to the film’s defense as well, telling USA Today that Paquin’s role was “perfect.”
“She was very powerful and that’s what it was,” De Niro said. “Maybe in other scenes, there could’ve been some interaction between Frank and her possibly, but that’s how it was done. She’s terrific and it resonates.”
The social justice warriors put Scorsese in their crosshairs this past October when a reporter at the Rome Film Fest asked him why his films have so few female characters. He immediately shot the question down, saying it was not even a “valid point.”
“That’s not even a valid point. That’s not valid. I can’t. … That goes back to 1970. That’s a question that I’ve had for so many years. Am I supposed to?” said Scorcese. “If the story doesn’t call for it. … It’s a waste of everybody’s time. If the story calls for a female character lead, why not?”
Director Quentin Tarantino faced a similar accusation from the press with the debut of his latest hit film, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” when a reporter questioned him as to why Margot Robbie’s character had so few lines. When he rebuked the line of questioning, TIME published an article in which two reporters actually watched all of Tarantino’s films to count the number of lines women characters spoke, accusing him of subtle misogyny.